For those who follow my writings, of course I had an opinion on the Ryan Lochte in Rio debacle. I wrote about the PR and personal brand implications of that adventure here.

But this brings us to the next facet of this juicy discussion: When is an apology not really an "apology" and what are the implications of a poor mea culpa on an individual or company's ongoing PR?

For the Ryan Lochte incident in question, I interviewed Dr. David Gruder, a prevalent psychologist, author and leadership expert, to gather his thoughts. Here's how he breaks it down:

· Lochte and his friends engaged in drunk and disorderly conduct.

· Security did them a favor by not reporting the incident to police.

· There was no remorse noted later that night. Instead, Lochte issued a concocted story that made him sound like the victim of overreaching officers after already being let off the hook.

· Then he went further by co-opting his attorney and his mother into believing and publicly supporting his lie.

· He took responsibility only after the lie was exposed. But saying he "over-exaggerated" the story is not an apology, nor an admission of what he actually did (reinvented the story of an appropriate security guard intervention into a tale of getting bullied and robbed).

· His apology to the gas station owner, the people of Rio and Brazil and the people putting on the games sounds "way too coached," Dr. Gruder says. But worse, he never took public responsibility for the impact of his lie.

· An athlete of Lochte's caliber, representing his team and country on an international stage, can rightly be expected to take reasonable self-responsibility for his behaviors.

The verdict: This public apology fails to meet the sincerity sniff test, Gruder says.

We see many examples of "forced apologies" among public figures, newscasters and political figures today. Our ears are tuned for the clues of a watered down admission such as the sudden use of passive voice (deleting the "doer") such as: "Mistakes were made." (By whom?)

Odd language constructions appear such as: "The two incidents were conflated in my memory." (Brian Williams explaining his conflicting and falsely reported stories of his presence during wartime events.)

Or, "I over-exaggerated that story." (Lochte's feeble overreach, implying that extreme exaggeration is less inappropriate than an outright lie. PR advice: It is not.)

So when it happens to you (and it may), what would constitute an appropriate public apology?

"Definitely not words about being sorry," Gruder says. "Those words by themselves are too often another subtle lie heaped on top of the damage already done. Instead, I look for accountability."

Genuine accountability has four cornerstones, Gruder says:

1. Stating one's unintended role in a problem, without self-shaming or making excuses.

2. Specifically name the unintended negative impacts of the (presumably) unintended behavior. Taking responsibility for those impacts in specific and complete ways is where rubber begins to meet road.

3. Make a repair gesture, to the extent it is possible. "I'm sorry" and "I apologize" aren't repairs; they're just words. For instance, Lochte could have agreed to do some community service to make amends, or could have made a contribution on behalf of the Brazilian police.

4. State how one will handle future similar situations. (How will Lochte handle the temptation to get drunk and disorderly or to lie in the future?)

The bottom line is this: where there's no accountability, there's no apology. True accountability, however, creates trust and safety after a violation occurs. It builds collaboration. Perhaps the one silver lining in this and other similar stories is the chance to illuminate the great impact authentic accountability could have in the face of a bad situation.