Ryan Lochte Grill: Accessory Puts American Star in Spotlight for Wrong Reasons

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 28:  Ryan Lochte of the United States celebrates with his Gold Medal during the Medal Ceremony for the Men's 400m Individual Medley on Day 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Ryan Lochte's quest to overtake Michael Phelps as the world's best swimmer was expected to become one of the Olympics' biggest storylines. Instead, the biggest news has been Lochte's mouth, and it's not because of something he said.

Nobody would have been surprised to hear that Lochte has dominated the headlines in London, but not many people were expecting a patriotic grill to be the reason. His valuable piece of bling has caused quite a stir over the past few days.

Lochte wanted to wear it while receiving his gold medal for the 400-meter individual medley—a race in which he easily defeated Phelps and every other competitor in the field. But an Olympic official told him he wouldn't get the medal if he did, according to USA Today.

While it seems like an extreme punishment for such a minor issue, the Olympics are staked in tradition, and athletes have to understand that when they arrive. Nobody is bigger than the Games themselves, no matter how good they are.

More than anything else, it has caused an unnecessary distraction for Lochte. He comes off as an outgoing, laid-back dude, but he can't forget that he's there to compete first and foremost. There will be plenty of time to wear his bling when he returns stateside for the inevitable media tour.

Phelps was all business when he took the swimming world by storm four years ago. He knew anything less than his best wouldn't be enough to reach his ultimate goal of eight golds.

It's safe to start wondering whether or not Lochte has that same internal fire to dominate. Between this avoidable incident and his lackluster showing in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, things haven't exactly gone according to plan so far.

If his results don't improve moving forward, he will become one of the biggest disappointments in recent Olympic history given all of the hype he received in the weeks leading up to the Games.

In other words, it's time to store the grill away in a safe place for later. Even though it's a cool accessory, it isn't worth the distraction it's going to cause every time he wears it from here on out. Distractions are the last thing he needs right now.

His trip to London should be about swimming first and everything else second. After he gets done with all of his races, he'll be free to do whatever he wants.

As for now, it's time to keep his eye on the prize.