Swimmer Ryan Lochte has hired New York-based public relations consultant Matthew Hiltzik to pull him from the media riptide over his disputed account of being robbed at gunpoint while in Rio for the Olympics.
Hiltzik has helped celebrities including Justin Bieber, Harvey Weinstein and Alec Baldwin in the past. Hiltzik also works with troubled athletes — he helped MLB star Ryan Braun when he was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.
Lochte’s claim that he and his teammates were robbed — which Brazilian police say is false — could cost him sponsorships and endorsement deals.
Last night, USA Swimming has released a statement criticizing Lochte and his fellow swimmers, Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and James Feigen. All are being investigated by the Brazilian authorities.
“The last five days have been difficult for our USA Swimming and United States Olympic families,” executive director Chuck Wielgus said. “While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgement and conduct that led us to this point. It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals.”
Rio officials said the foursome were not been robbed, and in fact were stopped by security after they vandalized a gas station bathroom. The police also cited video footage that captured them laughing and smiling as they returned to the Olympic Village — behavior that would seem uncharacteristic for men whose lives had just been threatened.
Conger and Bentz were removed from a plane from Brazil to the U.S. on Wednesday night for questioning about the incident, while Lochte had returned to America two days earlier. Bentz and Conger later were allowed to leave.