Ryan Lochte might just be the most hated man in America right now.
In the wake of his appalling lie, he’s become a punchline for late-night talk show hosts. All of his major sponsors—including Speedo, Ralph Lauren and hair-removal brand Syneron Candela—have dropped him.
And even the thirstiest queens have stopped panting over him.
There were so many amazing stories coming out of Rio, but they were overshadowed by the actions of Lochte and his irresponsible teammates. And then he made it worse by running away and then doubling down on the lie.
So how can he recover?
The 2016 Paralympics kick off in Rio on September 7. But the games are facing a massive budget shortfall—something in the order of $85 million.
That means some events (though not meets) will be canceled, and others will have to be relocated to smaller venues. Transportation and media resources will be scaled back dramatically, as well.
And worst of all, some smaller countries may not be able to afford to send athletes.
Lochte could (and should) write a big check for the Paralympics. It would go a long way toward showing that he understands what the true spirit of sportsmanship is. And he should do it before anyone else attaches their brand.
But throwing money at the problem isn’t enough: He should hustle to get celebrities, sponsors and organizations to cough up some dough, too. And start volunteering with disabled swimmers— school groups, adults, competitors.
Not just this week for the cameras, but really embrace the role from now on. (Because, let’s face it, even without this ugly scandal the shelf-life of a dim-but-pretty Olympian is pretty short.)
In all likelihood, Lochte will probably blame the whole thing on drinking and check into rehab. But if he turned what happened in Rio into a teachable moment, he could emerge from this with something better than a gold medal.