Ryan Lochte knows what it feels like to be a winner. The American swimmer won his first Olympic Gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens when he was 20. Between 2004 and 2016, he collected a total of 12 Olympic medals, making him one of the world’s most decorated swimmers who earned millions along the way.
However, the world-class athlete also knows what it feels like to hit rock bottom following a scandal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. With the 36-year-old now setting his sights on a stunning return at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, fans have wondered — "What happened to Ryan Lochte?"
A scandal during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro resulted in a 10-month suspension and the loss of major sponsors for Ryan Lochte. Two years later, Lochte was suspended again by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for receiving an intravenous vitamin B-12 infusion. During that time, he lost nearly all of his career earnings and the swimmer explained how he struggled with alcohol and newfound fame.
In an interview with CNBC in 2019, Lochte said he went from making “well over $1 million” a year to earning around $75,000 from a single sponsor. The swimmer went on to add that he and his wife had already downsized from a 4,200 square-foot home to a 1,800 square-foot apartment, but Lochte was still spending beyond his means and was quickly headed into debt. He estimated he had about $20,000 in savings, though he admitted that he hadn’t looked at his bank account in two years.
The humbling experience taught Lochte that “money doesn’t grow on trees". He explained, “You’ve got to be smart. Any paycheck that you get, whether it’s $5 or $50,000, you have to put some away, no matter what. I had a persona of people knowing, oh my God there’s Ryan Lochte, he’s the rockstar, the playboy image of swimming. And, you know, I played that role, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t me."
Lochte is now back in the water and training six days a week to make it to the 2021 Olympic Games. Trials for the Summer Olympics begin on June 18.
The American competitive swimmer is a 12-time Olympic medalist. Along with Natalie Coughlin, Dara Torres, and Jenny Thompson, he is the second-most decorated swimmer in Olympic history measured by the total number of medals, behind only Michael Phelps.