Journalists surround American Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz, left, and Jack Conger, center, as they leave the police station at Rio International airport early Thursday Aug. 18, 2016. The two were taken off their flight from Brazil to the U.S. on Wednesday by local authorities amid an investigation into a reported robbery targeting Ryan Lochte and his teammates. According to their lawyer they will not be allowed to leave Brazil until they provide testimony about the robbery. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)
Four sponsors have dropped disgraced US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, including swimwear manufacturer Speedo and fashion label Ralph Lauren.
They were followed by announcements from skin care firm Syneron-Candela and Japanese mattress maker Airweave.
It comes after Lochte lied about being robbed at gunpoint by a policeman after a night out during the Rio Olympics.
Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, has earned millions of dollars through endorsements.
Speedo, the biggest sponsor of the four, said: “We cannot condone behaviour that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.”
Lochte, aged 32, said he respected Speedo’s decision, and thanked the company.
“I am grateful for the opportunities that our partnership has afforded me over the years,” he said.
Speaking on US talk show Today, Lochte said: “I made a mistake and I definitely learned from this. They put on a great Games… and my immature, intoxicated behaviour tarnished that a little.”
Ralph Lauren, which has removed some of Lochte’s images from its website, said its sponsorship of the swimmer had been only for the Rio Olympics and would not be renewed.
Ralph Lauren and Airweave both stressed that they would continue their support of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams.
Syneron-Candela said: “We hold our employees to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners.”
Speedo said it would donate a $50,000 portion of Lochte’s sponsorship fee to the charity Save The Children’s Brazilian operation.
The value of Lochte’s Speedo sponsorship has not been disclosed. The contract reportedly expires this year after 10 years.
The US business magazine Forbes calculated that in the year of the 2012 London Olympics, Lochte earned about $2m in sponsorships from companies such as Gillette, Nissan, AT&T and Gatorade.
Lochte’s performance at Rio did not reach the heights of his London triumph, but Forbes estimated his endorsements would still have been between $1m-$2m.
The saga started when Lochte and three team-mates returned to the Olympic village after a late night out in Rio.
They tried, unsuccessfully, to use the locked toilet at a garage and urinated outside instead.
After first claiming that he and his three team-mates had been robbed by bogus policemen, Lochte back-tracked and admitted he had, while still drunk, “left details out” and “over-exaggerated some parts of the story”.
Despite the evidence against him, including CCTV footage, he has however denied that he actually lied in his initial account to Brazilian police.
Lochte’s behaviour has been met with disdain in the US and he has been widely pilloried in the US media.
On 19 August the New York Post carried a front-page headline describing him as the “Ugly American”, along with the slogan “Liar, Liar, Speedo on fire”.
Lochte is one of the most successful swimmers in history, with 12 Olympic medals, and he once had his own reality television show in the US.
In Rio, he swam in two events, winning a gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay along with team-mate Jack Conger.
“We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience,” Speedo said of Lochte.
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