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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Ryan Lochte through his career
Ryan Lochte through his career
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)
ATHENS, Greece: US Ryan Lochte poses on the podium after winning the men's 200m individual medley final, at the 2004 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatic Center in Athens, 19 August 2004. Lochte took the silver medal. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
MONTREAL - JULY 29: (L-R) Markus Rogan of Austria wins the silver medal, Aaron Peirsol of the United States wins the gold medal and Ryan Lochte of the United States wins the bronze medal in the 200 meter Backstroke final during the XI FINA World Championships at the Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 29, 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Peirsol set a new world record of 1:54.66. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 09: Ryan Lochte of the USA celebrates winning gold and breaking the world record with USA team mate Jayme Cramer in the men's 200m backstroke final during day five of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) held at Qi Zhong Stadium on April 9, 2006 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - DECEMBER 01: World-Record Holder Ryan Lochte of Florida swims the Butterfly leg in the Men's 400M Individual Medley Prelim Heats during the 2006 U.S. Open of Swimming on December 1, 2006 at the Boilermaker Aquatics Center in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Ryan Lochte of the USA poses with his silver medal following the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final during the XII FINA World Championships at the Rod Laver Arena on March 29, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Michael Phelps of the United States (L) celebrates victory and a new world record in the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final with second place Ryan Lochte of the United States during the XII FINA World Championships at the Rod Laver Arena on April 1, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Ryan Lochte attends THE CINEMA SOCIETY with CHANEL BEAUTE & VOGUE host the after party for 'THE DUCHESS' at Cooper Square Hotel on September 10, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by BiLLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
BEIJING - AUGUST 13: Ryan Lochte of the United States finishes the Men's 200m Backstroke Heat 6 in first place held at the National Aquatics Center on Day 5 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 13, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
' Ryan Lochte of USA displays his medal to the media photographers after receiving the Gold medal for the Men's 400m IM at the World Swimming Championships in Rome, Italy on Sunday, August 2, 2009. Photo Tim Clayton ' (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ryan Lochte attends Cocktails with a Cause benefitting Sophie's Voice Foundation at the Hearst Tower on September 14, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 690 -- Pictured: (l-r) Olympian Ryan Lochte during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on August 24, 2012 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Ryan Lochte appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
US swimmer Ryan Lochte reacts after he competed in the final of the men's 200-metre individual medley swimming event in the FINA World Championships at the indoor stadium of the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai on July 28, 2011. Lochte won the men's 200m individual medley in world record time, beating team-mate Michael Phelps. Lochte lowered his own record by one tenth of a second to 1min 54.00sec. AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 28: Ryan Lochte of the United States poses with his gold medal after winning in a new world record time the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final during Day Thirteen of the 14th FINA World Championships at the Oriental Sports Center on July 28, 2011 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 16: Ryan Lochte of USA reacts after swimming the last leg on the Men's 4x100m Medely Relay during day five of the 11th FINA Short Course World Championships at the Sinan Erdem Dome on December 16, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
US swimmer Michael Phelps (C) poses on the podium with the gold medal flanked by silver medalist US swimmer Ryan Lochte (R) and bronze medalist Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (L) after winning the men's 200m individual medley swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 2, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 21: Swimmer Ryan Lochte (L) and singer Miley Cyrus speak onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
Gold medalist US swimmer Ryan Lochte (C), silver medalist Japan's Kosuke Hagino (L) and bronze medalist Brazil's Thiago Pereira pose on the podium during the award ceremony of the men's 200-metre individual medley swimming event in the FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on August 1, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 06: Ryan Lochte of USA looks on after the Men's 100m Individual Medley heats on day four of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 6, 2014 in Doha, Qatar (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Ryan Lochte attends the 2015 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Awards at J.W. Marriot at L.A. Live on November 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/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)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 9: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Francis Haas (hidden) of Team USA celebrate winning the gold medal during the medal ceremony of the men's 200m freestyle relay on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2306' - The nine remaining celebrities ready themselves for one of the hottest nights in the ballroom - Latin Night - with each celebrity performing either a rumba, salsa, samba, paso doblï¿½ cha cha or Argentine tango, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' live, MONDAY, OCTOBER 17 (8:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
RYAN LOCHTE, CHERYL BURKE
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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."
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."
"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."