Ryan Lochte on Rio Incident: 'I over-exaggerated that story'

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Ryan Lochte Calls His Behavior in Rio 'Immature' and Childish in NBC News Exclusive

Twelve-time medalist Ryan Lochte took "full responsibility" Saturday for the incident in Rio that landed him and three other American swimmers in hot water and tarnished Team USA's reputation during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"I over-exaggerated that story," Lochte, 32, told NBC's Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview, a day after posting an apology online.

Lochte told Brazilian authorities — as well as Lauer — that he and fellow teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen had been robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station after a night of celebrating. As inconsistencies emerged in the account, skepticism grew.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Ryan Lochte of the United States attends a press conference in the Main Press Center on Day 7 of the Rio Olympics on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Semifinal - Men's 200m Individual Medley Semifinals - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10/08/2016. Ryan Lochte (USA) of USA competes REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Final - Men's 200m Individual Medley Final - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 11/08/2016. Ryan Lochte (USA) of USA reacts. REUTERS/David Gray FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Aug 9, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Conor Dwyer (USA) , Townley Haas (USA) , Ryan Lochte (USA) and Michael Phelps (USA) with their gold medals after the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. "One of my favorite songs is 'Sky's the Limit' by Lil Wayne," said Lochte. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 03: Ryan Lochte of USA competes in the Men's 200m Freestyle Final on day one of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 3, 2014 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - AUGUST 08: Ryan Lochte (L) and Nathan Adrian of the United States celebrate winning the gold medal in a new world record time of 3:23.05 in the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay Final on day fifteen of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 8, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 16: Ryan Lochte swims in the Men's 400 meter individual medley during the Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin on January 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
US Ryan Lochte competes in the final of the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay swimming event at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan on August 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - AUGUST 06: Ryan Lochte of the United States competes his way to the gold medal in the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final on day thirteen of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 6, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - AUGUST 05: Ryan Lochte of the United States competes in the Men's 200m Individual Medley Semi-Finals on day twelve of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 5, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Jul 1, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Ryan Lochte reacts after the mens 200 meter individual medley final in the U.S. Olympic swimming team trials at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JULY 16: Ryan Lochte talks with the media during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Training Camp Media Day on July 16, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JULY 01: Ryan Lochte of the United States prepares to compete in a final heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Six of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 1, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 30: Ryan Lochte of the United States reacts after competing in a semi-final heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Five of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 30, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 26: Ryan Lochte of the United States looks on after the final heat for the Men's 400 Meter Individual Medley during Day One of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 26, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 27: Ryan Lochte of the United States looks on after competing in a heat for the Men's 200 Meter Freestyle during Day Two of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 27, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29: Ryan Lochte of the United States prepares to compete in a preliminary heat of the Men's 100 meter freestyle during Day 4 of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 29, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 15: Ryan Lochte swims the breaststroke leg of a preliminary heat of the men's 200m IM during the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte swim meet at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 15, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - APRIL 14: Ryan Lochte starts the Men 200 LC Meter Freestyle final at Skyline Aquatic Center on April 14, 2016 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 12: Ryan Lochte and his coach David Marsh speak to the media at a press conference prior to the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series Charlotte swim meet at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 12, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11, 2016: Michael Phelps (L) and Ryan Lochte of the United States look on after the men's 200m individual medley final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. It is 22nd Olympic gold for Phelps. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
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Rio police refuted his story altogether earlier this week. Citing surveillance video and witness testimony, they said the swimmers had vandalized the gas station restroom, then had been confronted by security guards, who took out their weapons and told them to pay for the damage before leaving the gas station.

But Rio Police Chief Fernando Veloso denied the guards had used excessive force against the athletes.

Watch more from Matt Lauer's interview with Ryan Lochte Monday on TODAY

"They were not victims of the criminal actions that they claimed they were," Veloso said Thursday. "They fabricated a story."

In an interview with TODAY Sunday, Lochte said an armed robber pointed a gun at his forehead and cocked the weapon. In the interview that aired Saturday, Lochte said that was made up.

"That didn't happen and that's why — I over-exaggerated that part, " Lochte said. The gun was drawn and pointed in his direction but was never at his forehead, Lochte said.

Asked why he would make up the dramatic detail, Lochte said: "I don't know why." He added it was hours after the incident occurred and he was still intoxicated.

"I'm not making me being intoxicated like an excuse, I'm not doing that at all," Lochte said. "It was my fault and I shouldn't have said it."

Related: U.S. Swimmer Jack Conger: 'I Deeply Regret' This 'Unfortunate Situation'

Lauer asked Lochte why he had maintained they were "victims" in his statements to police and to the media.

"It's how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion, or us paying just for the damages, like, we don't know," Lochte responded. "All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction, and we were demanded to give money."

According to the statement that his teammate Bentz gave authorities, a man who spoke English walked over and told the swimmers the guards were telling them to pay for the damage they caused, or else they would call the police. Lauer pressed Lochte on whether he understood what the guards were proposing.

"We just wanted to get out of there," Lochte said. "We were all frightened. And we wanted to get out of there as quick as possible. And the only way we knew is — this guy saying, 'You have to give him money.' So we gave him money, and we got out."

Related: How the Lochte Stickup Story Unfolded

"What I'm trying to get at is the first version of the story you told, Ryan, was much more about the mean streets of Rio," Lauer told him. "And the version we're hearing now is much more about a negotiated settlement to cover up some dumb behavior."

"And that's why I'm taking full responsibility for it," Lochte said. "Because I over-exaggerated that story. And if I had never done that, we wouldn't be in this mess ... None of this would have happened. And it was my immature behavior."

The swimmer said "I'm just embarrassed" and "I know what I did was wrong" during the interview. He expressed remorse that the controversy became a distraction from the Olympic games.

Lochte also apologized to the people of Rio and Brazil. The fabrication was seen by some as especially insulting considering media coverage of the city's crime rate and pollution in the run up to the Olympic games.

"They put on a great games. The people of Rio or Brazil, the authorities, everyone there put on a great games. And my immature behavior tarnished that a little, and I don't want that," Lochte said.

"I'm just really sorry and I hope they can accept my apology," he said.

Lochte said that he hopes to continue his Olympic swimming career, if officials allow it.

"If they give me that chance I definitely know I can turn this around and become that role model for little kids," Lochte said. "I don't want little kids to look at me for what I just did, for that one night. I don't want that."

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Emotional Ryan Lochte to Matt Lauer: 'I Let My Team Down'
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