Crazy Brazilian law helped a Judo program, let swimmer go free

Saturday, August 20, 2016

If there was an Olympic medal for being an Ugly American, Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen, along with fellow Olympic gold medalists in swimming Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger won it in Rio. They got drunk, damaged a gas station, urinated on the side of the building, refused to pay for damages, tried to fight, got a gun pulled on them by security, coughed up 40 bucks, and then went on their way, laughing.

Lochte and Feigen then told authorities that a man or men (the story changed) dressed as police officers had pulled them over and robbed them of $400. Lochte said that he had bravely resisted the robbery, and only when a gun was placed on his head did he stop.

It did not take long for detectives to figure out the truth, but by then, Lochte had departed the country.

Bentz and Conger also ran, but were pulled off a plane, and told the truth. Critically, this was the first time they had spoke to authorities about the incident – they never lied. The pair were thanked and released.

That left Feigen as the sole figure under control of Brazilian authorities who had lied about an incident that first came to stand for what is wrong with Brazil, but then came to stand for what is wrong with the Americans. Article 340 of Brazil’s Criminal Code prohibits “false communication of crime -knowingly informing authorities of the occurrence of crime or misdemeanor that did not take place.” The penalty is imprisonment of one to six months, or a fine.

Mercifully for Feigen, in the mid 90s there was a broad effort in Brazil to make the nations judicial system less harsh. One change was that individuals of means can make a wealth-based donation to charity, and avoid jail or fines. The poor too can take part in the program, via volunteering to take part in programs for social good.

Other manifestations of the change, noted by Vice, include non violent criminals knocking four days off their sentence for every book they read, and in the state prison of Santa Rita do Sapucaí, prisoners convicted of violent crimes can cut one day off their sentences for every 16 hours they spend pedaling special bicycles that generate electricity to light the city’s riverside promenade.

Brazilian media giant Globo is reporting that Feigen made a contribution 35,000 reals (approximately $11,000 US dollars) and was absolved of the crime. While avoiding punishment by being rich enough to donate to charity doesn’t feel entirely just, the money is going to an extraordinary

The good news is that the funds are going to buy equipment for an extraordinary program in the favela’s of Rio. Instituto Reação (Reaction Institute) is a Judo-based organization for disadvantaged youth, founded by Flávio Canto, Judo and BJJ black belt and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in judo.

Check out his highlight below. Of topical interest, at the 1:28 mark, Canto is seen vs. 2016 Judo silver medalist and fellow BJJ black bBelt, Travis Stevens:

The life of a fighter is necessarily self-centered, but Canto wanted more.

“In life we always seek for an activity that makes you complete,” said Canto to Armando Aguinaga for Fight Land. “Until then my life was all about judo and the Olympic dream. When the Instituto Reação came into my life I found a new way, which made me feel accomplished. This social project prepared me to leave the competition behind. In my last years as an athlete I no longer felt so motivating to have results and winning medals. I knew within me was born a desire to do more important and relevant things.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by the USA’s Kayla Harrison, who just won her second gold medal in a row in Judo, and now intends to focus on her a nascent foundation, Fearless, that enriches the lives of fellow survivors or childhood sexual abuse through education and sport.

The Instituto Reação does incredible work providing the extraordinarily disadvantaged with the benefits of martial arts training. Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was so impressed, she donated $30,000, and left her title belt there.

Ryan Lochte’s drunken, criminal behavior smeared the reputation of Brazil and the reputation of the USA. There are expected to be serious repercussions for his swimming career. If he wants to begin to make amends, he should not begin as he did with the attorney-cooked, half-hearted apology that described what he did as “less than candid.” Lochte should do Rousey one better – he should donate his gold medal to Instituto Reação, and contribute $30,001. And he should punch himself in the face.

That’s a good start.

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