UPDATE, 9:22 AM: A Brazilian police official said ahead of a scheduled news conference today in Rio de Janeiro that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte’s claims he and three other American swimmers were robbed at gunpoint over the weekend had been fabricated. The report from the Associated Press comes a day after two of the swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, were pulled off a plane at the Rio airport for further questioning from police, who had been having trouble corroborating the claims.
The latest revelations in the case come amid reports that a member of the British Olympic team was allegedly held up by an armed assailant in Rio early Tuesday. It prompted the British Olympic Association to issue a strong warning to team members, advising that it is “simply not worth the risk” to leave the Olympic Village. It is understood the unidentified Team GB athlete in question was in shock, but not seriously hurt.
As for the U.S. incident the AP’s source said Conger and Bentz told police they had made up a story about being robbed at gunpoint. The police official said that early Sunday morning, the swimmers stopped at a gas station but could not get into an outside bathroom there. A few of them “pushed the door and broke it,” and a security guard confronted them. He was armed with a gun but did not take it out. Eventually, the gas station owner arrived and at some point the swimmers paid him money to fix the door and they left.
Lochte and the swimmers originally told police and later NBC that they were stopped in a cab and robbed by armed men posing as police. Lochte said one pointed a gun at his head, but he backed off that claim in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday.
A U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman told the AP today that the swimmers were planning to meet again with authorities. Lochte and the fourth swimmer in the group, Jimmy Feigen, had left Rio before police earlier this week ordered the group to stay to continue the investigation.
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY, 7:43 PM: The U.S. Olympic Committee has confirmed that Brazilian authorities removed U.S. Olympic swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz from their plane tonight and are questioning them as part of an investigation into claims that they were the victims of an armed robbery Sunday morning in Rio. The claims were made public by gold medalist Ryan Lochte, who later told NBC News that the trio, along with fellow swimmer James Feigen, were robbed at gunpoint by assailants posing as police officers.
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte told NBC on Sunday. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.”
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, get down and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
Lochte later thanked fans and supported in a message posted to his Instagram feed.
The claims made global headlines owing to concerns about the safety of visiting Olympians in the Brazilian city, but have in the days since been subject to heavy scrutiny. Police in Rio say they cannot locate the driver of the Taxi the Americans claim to have been in, and have not been able to find corroborating witnesses. In addition, the quartet were captured on video sometime after the robbery was supposed to have occurred in apparent possession of their wallets and phones.
Subsequently, a judge ordered Lochte to remain in Brazil for questioning and a warrant was issued for the seizure of his passport, but he had by that time already returned to the United States. A warrant was also issued for Feigen, whose location is not known. Lochte said he wouldn’t make up a story like this, Matt Lauer reported tonight. Lochte told him he his three teammates were victims.
Lochte has won 12 Olympic gold medals, including one for 4×200 freestyle relay at the Rio Olympics.