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Was Manti Te’o in on the Fake Girlfriend Hoax?

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Manti Te'o (Getty Images)

At this point, the only thing that's clear about the once-inspiring saga of Manti Te'o is that it's not true.

Back in September, Notre Dame football standout Te'o learned about the death of both his grandmother and his leukemia-stricken girlfriend of nine months on the same day, and despite what appeared to be two great losses, was back on the field three days later and gave a record-breaking performance that helped his team upset Michigan State University 20-3. Wow. It's no wonder that Te'o was the first runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and is expected to be one of the top pics in the NFL draft.

So it came as a shock when Deadspin revealed that the part of the story about the girlfriend, a 22-year-old Standford University student named Lennay Kekua, is a lie. Despite media reports from Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CBS, and the Los Angeles Times that detailed his relationship with Kekua, Deadspin could find no record of Kekua's obituary, or a car crash that she supposedly was being treated for when she was diagnosed with cancer.

The website also found that photos Kekua posted of herself on Twitter were actually those of a young woman from Torrance, California, who's still very much alive. That woman told Deadspin that one of the pics was one that she'd given to a former high school classmate, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, whom the site definitively linked to Te'o. It went as far as saying that multiple unnamed friends and family members of Tuiasosopo "asserted that Ronaiah was the man behind Lennay."

However, Te'o says he's fallen victim to an elaborate hoax. "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," he said in a statement. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

If Te'o is lying about anything in this story, my advice is to come clean now. Just ask Lance Armstrong.

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