UPDATED, 8:05 PM: The U.S. Olympic Committee has issued an apology for the scandal involved four American swimmers who claimed to have been robbed. “The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its member,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said. The statement comes as two of the swimmers — Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz — reportedly have left Brazil for home. No update on the status of James Feigen, the fourth swimmer involved in the case.
PREVIOUSLY, 1:20 PM: There was no robbery, Rio de Janeiro’s chief of civil police Fernando Velosa said today of U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte’s claim he and three other American Olympic swimmers were robbed at gunpoint over the weekend.
In the latest bizarre twist to the story that has completely hijacked NBC’s Games coverage, U.S. medal counting, and talk of Lochte’s brilliant post-Olympics endorsement future, the police chief said a security guard at a gas station did pull a gun on the athletes. But only after Lochte got particularly angry and unruly after gas station staff and guards tried to prevent them from leaving. They did so because the swimmers had vandalized the gas station bathroom, including breaking mirrors, and were trying to duck out without paying, Velosa indicated.
The police chief called the security guard’s behavior justified because he was dealing with four strong and intoxicated athletes. The security guard may have demanded money, several reporters concluded after hearing the police chief’s very disjointed explanation at his bizarre news conference.
The swimmers did give someone at the gas station money, which the police chief said was offered to pay for the damage.
Velosi said one of the American athletes has confirmed reports that a robbery did not occur. This backs up statements, Velosi said, that police have gathered from witnesses including someone who acted as translator during the incident between the English-speaking athletes and Portuguese-speaking gas station staffers. Some or all of the athletes could be charged, Velosi said, but would not elaborate. At the very least, the U.S. athletes owe the city of Rio an apology, he added.
“One of the athletes was really disturbed and he was actually kind of angry, so there is the use of this weapon to control one of them,” the police chief said, later identifying that athlete as Lochte, who he said was “very angry because he was intoxicated…he was probably drunk.”
During the news conference, one reporter told the police chief that an attorney for Lochte has accused him of creating a “circus” in the way this investigation has been conducted, which presumably includes the news conference.
“Do you see a clown nose on my face now?” Velosa shot back. “That would be my answer. No, we don’t have anyone here with a nose clown. What this attorney is saying deserves that kind of answer.”
Brazilian police sources had told news outlets ahead of the news conference that Lochte and three other American swimmers made up their story about being robbed.
This in marked contrast to Matt Lauer’s report on NBC this morning, saying Lochte told him, “We wouldn’t make this story up,” adding, according to Lauer, “We’re victims in this and we’re happy that we’re safe.”
On Sunday, Lochte had told NBC News’ Billy Bush that a a man posing as a police officer “pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and said ‘get down.’ I was like (puts hands up) I put my hands up. I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet.”
Lochte claimed in that initial interview that the robbery took place in a taxi early that morning as they returned to the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro.
Two of the swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, subsequently were pulled off a plane at the Rio airport for further questioning from police, who had been having trouble corroborating the athletes’ claims. Lochte and the fourth swimmer in the group, Jimmy Feigen, had left Rio before police had ordered the men to stay while an investigation into the incident continued.
Conger and Bentz told police they had made up a story about being robbed at gunpoint, the Associated Press reported in advance of the presser, citing a local police source. The swimmers stopped at a gas station early Sunday morning to use the bathroom and broke the door when they were unable to get in, AP reported. A security guard confronted them; he was armed with a gun but did not take it out, that report said. The swimmers “offered 100 reals and $20” to compensate for the damage, ABC News reported this morning, also citing an unnamed police source.
Lochte and the swimmers originally told police, and NBC, which is broadcasting the Rio Olympics, they were stopped in a cab and robbed by armed men posing as police. Lochte said one put a gun to his head, though he backed off that claim slightly, saying the gun was pointed at him but was not put at his head, in a Wednesday interview with NBC News’ Matt Lauer. Lochte told Lauer that the swimmers used a restroom at a gas station and when they got back to their taxi, the driver did not drive away. That’s when two men approached with guns and badges and told them to get out of the vehicle and down on the ground, Lochte said.
Lochte and the fourth swimmer in the group, Jimmy Feigen, had left Rio earlier this week, before police ordered the group to stay to continue the investigation.
United States Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said today that all of the swimmers are represented by counsel, “and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio.”
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