Brazilian police: Ryan Lochte made up story about robbery
RIO DE JANEIRO — U.S. gold-medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte made up a story about being robbed at gunpoint at the Rio Olympics, a Brazilian police official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The official said that early Sunday morning, Lochte and fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen, stopped at a gas station in the Rio suburb of Barra da Tijuca where many Olympic venues are located.
One of the swimmers tried to open the door of an outside bathroom, but it was locked. Some of the swimmers then pushed on the door and broke it.
An armed security guard arrived to confront the swimmers. But the official said the guard never took out or pointed his pistol at the swimmers, the AP reported.
The official then said the gas station manager arrived and using a customer to translate, the manager asked the swimmers to pay for the broken door.
The swimmers paid an unknown amount of money and left, the official said.
The owner of the gas station told the Brazilian newspaper “O Globo” the swimmers threw stones at the business and tore one of its signs before urinating in the street.
“They stopped next to the gas station, and urinated outside right next to the gas station,” the owner said. “We even have images of one of the athlete’s butts, as he is pulling up his pants.”
The official said Conger and Bentz, who were yanked off a plane going back to the U.S. late Wednesday, told police the robbery story had been fabricated.
The swimmers reported being robbed at gunpoint early Sunday in a taxi bound for the Olympic Village by individuals posing as armed police officers, the U.S. Olympic Committee said.
But Brazilian authorities said they had questions about what happened that night and had concerns over inconsistencies in different accounts of the events.
The USOC said the robbery occurred after the athletes left a party at the French hospitality house.
On Sunday, Lochte gave a chilling account to NBC, saying the swimmers’ taxi was pulled over and men flashed a police badge at the Americans before forcing them to the ground. After Lochte refused to get down, he said a man cocked a gun and pressed it against his head.
But he changed his account slightly Wednesday, NBC reported, saying the men were robbed after using a toilet at a gas station, and that after their taxi driver refused to drive away, two men forced them to the ground, one pointing a gun inches from Lochte as he refused.
An attorney for Lochte, Jeff Ostrow, brushed off the discrepancy, saying the gun was pointed near his client’s head, not against it, adding the difference was just “a matter of inches.”
Civil police said the case attracted their attention because the swimmers said their phones and watches weren’t stolen — items typically targeted by thieves in crime-plagued Rio.
Brazilian Judge Keyla Blanc De Cnop said the athletes’ jocular behavior upon arrival at the Olympic Village — combined with inconsistencies in their statements — led police to question the veracity of their claim.
The judge noted that Lochte had said a single robber approached the athletes and demanded all their money ($124), while Feigen’s statement said a number of robbers targeted the athletes but only one was armed.
Public speculation about the incident was fueled by the release of a video obtained by the Daily Mail, which it said was filmed shortly after the reported robbery.
The video appears to show the four swimmers returning to the Olympic Village, and in possession of high-value items that might be expected to have been taken in an armed robbery.
The removal of the swimmers from the plane Wednesday night follows reports that a Brazilian judge issued a search and seizure warrant for Lochte’s and Feigen’s passports as questions emerged about their accounts.
Federal Police say Lochte left Brazil on Monday on a commercial flight, two days before the judicial order.