Protesters interrupt Lochte's 'Dancing with the Stars' debut

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Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte's debut routine on the reality show 'Dancing with the Stars' was interrupted by a pair of men who appeared to be staging a protest.

Lochte, less than a month removed from his controversial behaviour during the Rio Olympics, performed the penultimate routine of Monday's live season premiere. Upon completing his number with dance partner Cheryl Burke, Lochte appeared startled by an off-screen incident that caused the show to cut abruptly to a commercial break.

It was not clear exactly what occurred, but an Instagram video from Ed Moses - a former member of the US Olympic swimming team who was in attendance - purported to show two men being apprehended on stage and escorted away. 

Lochte was unharmed.

Los Angeles-based ABC7 reporter George Pennacchio later tweeted a photo of the men, who were not identified, in handcuffs off-stage. They were wearing white T-shirts with Lochte's name crossed out in the centre.

Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medallist, made headlines in Rio for the wrong reasons when he alleged that he was robbed at gunpoint along with three team-mates at a gas station after attending a party in Brazil last month. The 32-year-old was charged with making a false statement after admitting he had "over-exaggerated" his story, and apologised for his "immature behaviour."

The United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming last week suspended Lochte for 10 months and rescinded gold medal bonuses that could amount to $100,000. He also must carry out 20 hours of community service.

The entire ordeal was covered briefly before Monday's segment.

In a pre-taped interview, Lochte told the audience he was hoping to use "Dancing with the Stars" as a platform to rehabilitate his public image.