Olympic robbery scandal: Note to athletes and organizations—don’t strive for the gold in lying

by | Aug 19, 2016 | Entertainment, Politics and Government - US, Public Relations, Sports

As new details and surveillance video emerge shedding light on what exactly occurred with the four U.S. Olympic swimmers who claimed they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio, we get yet another lesson that lying or trying to cover things up is never a good strategy.

The news that the swimmers fabricated their story, perhaps to mask their embarrassment about vandalizing a gas station bathroom door early in the morning of Aug. 14, is surprising only in that they were so naïve to think they’d somehow get away with it. Because even in a developing country like Brazil, security cameras, eyewitnesses and police investigative techniques do exist.

Clearly, being great at the breast stroke doesn’t mean you’re among the sharpest tools in the swimming pool, or the gene pool.

The sad, disturbing revelations come just three days after Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane was convicted of charges including pushing an illegal vendetta against a political rival, then lying to investigators in an attempt to cover up her actions. It’s likely the jail time she receives will be more for committing perjury than abusing the powers of her office.

In the early 2000s, Martha Stewart made her insider trading case much worse for herself by lying to federal investigators. It’s hard to say what portion of her five-month prison sentence was directly related to perjury, but it’s safe to say prosecutors and the courts take that sort of thing very seriously.

Nor does lying pay for organizations under the scrutiny of the public, the media, or law enforcement or investigative agencies. The public is just too savvy, the media just too unrelenting, for any falsehoods to stand up over the long term. Did Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn seriously expect customers and the federal government to believe the emission-defeating device installed on its cars was the work of “rogue engineers”acting without the knowledge of the executive suite? Winterkorn, who soon after resigned, has not been charged with a crime personally, but he could take gold in the competition for the most egregious assault on the public’s sensibilities.

Wouldn’t Patriots icon Tom Brady command more respect—outside of New England, at least—had he owned up to having footballs deflated before that playoff game instead of denying it with every breath, then fighting in court every league attempt to discipline him? His absence for the first four games of the coming season will serve as a month-long reminder of his tarnished character. Give him the silver.

Hillary Clinton has been accused of lying consistently, about her emails, her knowledge of the events in Benghazi, and her experience of landing “amid sniper fire” in Bosnia, among other things. Donald Trump has been called out for lying about his own recollections of post-9/11 activity, the value of his empire, his relationship or lack thereof with Vladimir Putin, and many other things, pretty regularly.  Just about all politicians lie—she hasn’t been charged with perjury and the American people can see through his inconsistencies fairly easily. Give them both the bronze.

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Ryan Lochte and his teammates apparently paid for the damaged door on-site—they will likely continue to pay even if they’re not charged criminally, through loss of endorsements (particularly in Lochte’s case), loss of respect among their peers and fans and, possibly, sanctions from the IOC and/or USA Swimming, their sport’s governing body. Had they admitted breaking a door while drunk because nature called, fans could almost forgive them, with the caveat that “spoiled” athletes sometimes behave badly, especially when they’re celebrating and alcohol is involved. It’s the lies that will follow them long after they fly home from Rio.

Individuals and organizations can take this incident as yet another lesson that when you’ve been caught doing bad things, or bad things happen beyond your control, you’re far more likely to recover your reputation and earn back the loyalty of customers and the public quickly by being honest from the outset. Everyone does stupid things once in a while. The measure of a man or an organization is how they respond.

Guest contributor Gary Frisch is founder and president of Swordfish Communications, a full-service public relations agency in Laurel Springs, N.J. Read the original article as it appears on BulldogReporter.com.

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Gary Frisch
Gary Frisch is founder and president of Swordfish Communications, a full-service public relations agency in Laurel Springs, N.J.

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