In ESPN the Magazine's June 12 World Fame Issue, Olympian Ryan Lochte reveals he contemplated committing suicide following his highly public scandal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Last August, the 32-year-old swimmer falsely claimed that he and Team USA swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station in Brazil. He was admittedly "hammered" at the time, as he'd been celebrating their win; Lochte later confessed he didn't remember all the details of the night. After returning to the Olympic Village, Lochte exaggerated the story to his mom, who later told the media Lochte had been robbed at gunpoint. He repeated the story on NBC's "Today," and before long, his lies got the best of him.
"After Rio, I was probably the most hated person in the world. There were a couple of points where I was crying, thinking, 'If I go to bed and never wake up, fine,'" the swimmer says, confirming that he considered contemplating suicide. "I was about to hang up my entire life."
"You can be at the all-time high and then the next second the all-time low. I love being at the Olympics, but I'm the opposite of what you'd expect. It's been that way my whole life. I don't fit in," he tells ESPN the Magazine. But, each time he steps into the pool, "Everything disappears."
"Sometimes I wish I could stay underwater forever," Lochte admits.
A police investigation was launched after Lochte's initial TV interview. It was later revealed that he had pulled a framed advertisement to the ground, and surveillance video also showed the swimmers being detained by armed officials who demanded payment for the damages before letting them leave the gas station; the swimmers paid and then returned to the Olympic Village.
As a result of the scandal, Lochte lost numerous endorsement deals.
"You learn from your mistakes," the 12-time Olympic medalist says. "Am I going to be perfect? No."
His pregnant fiancée, Kayla Rae Reid, adds, "People treated him like he murdered somebody."
Lochte, who has never been to therapy, adds that he learned a valuable lesson from the experience, and he vows to be and do better.
"Everything happens for a reason. Look, I was done with swimming back in 2013. I was drained, wiped out. Now I've found a new purpose with my son. This fire has been ignited, and it's bigger than ever, and I'm just so excited because I know what's going to happen in Tokyo," he predicts. "Everyone is going to have to watch out!"
He hopes that the public will believe him when he says he never meant any harm. "My shoes with the teddy bears, my grill—that stuff was meant to lighten the mood," Lochte says. "I mean, this world is so negative. If I can put a little bit of fun in people's lives, then I'm cool with that."
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.