Ryan Lochte NEVER thought about killing himself -- or hurting himself in any way -- after the 2016 Rio Olympics ... despite media reports suggesting otherwise, this according to Lochte himself.
Earlier this week, Lochte told ESPN he "was about to hang up my entire life" after the Rio incident -- and when asked if that meant he considered suicide, nodded his head slowly.
But Lochte tells TMZ Sports, "To be clear, yes I was in a very dark place after Rio, but I never thought about taking my own life."
"That’s the media twisting what I told ESPN. I would never do that. That’s not me."
Lochte goes on ... "I’m a fighter, always have been, and always will be. I knew that I would do whatever necessary to get through that horrible time, and most importantly to once again earn the trust of my friends, family, and the public, who have always been so supportive of me."
Lochte says he's in a great place now -- both personally and professionally -- and he's excited for his fiancee, Kayla, to give birth to their son any minute now.