Report: Rio police exaggerated their version of Ryan Lochte events, too

Ben Rohrbach

There is no evidence Ryan Lochte or his three U.S. swimming teammates ever entered — let alone damaged — a bathroom at the gas station where a late-night rest stop exploded into an international incident at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last week, according to a USA Today report on Monday night.

In a press conference called to debunk Lochte’s claims of a robbery at gunpoint, Rio police chief Fernando Veloso painted the bathroom as a crime scene, claiming American swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen, along with Lochte, broke a soap dispenser and mirror. Meanwhile, media outlets cited law enforcement officials who accused them of also breaking a bathroom door.

However, there is no such damage, and none of those items appear to have been replaced, per the USA Today report. Likewise, the newspaper reviewed extensive security footage from the Shell station, including a camera aimed at the restroom entrance, and the swimmers never entered the door.

Instead, the swimmers urinated on the backside of the gas station, and an intoxicated Lochte tore a “loosely attached” advertisement from an exterior wall, according to a police statement from Bentz and an eyewitness account to USA Today by Fernando Deluz — a disc jockey who translated the heated discussion between the American swimmers and the Portuguese-speaking security guards.

“If I hadn’t involved myself,” Deluz told the newspaper, adding that one guard had drawn his gun, “I thought — the police chief told me, ‘Man, if you hadn’t gone there in that moment, a tragedy could have occurred.”

Furthermore, the armed security guards indeed demanded payment from the Americans, per Deluz.

This latest report raises questions about the Rio police chief’s public portrayal of the U.S. swimmers as more vandals than victims, as well as his willingness to overlook actions taken by security guards, who were off-duty law enforcement officers. While it does not excuse them for public urination and tearing a poster off a wall, one can understand — considering the language barrier and level of intoxication — how Lochte & Co. thought they were robbed at gunpoint by men posing as police.

[Related: Speedo cuts ties with Ryan Lochte: ‘We cannot condone his behavior’]

In other words, just because Lochte exaggerated claims to the “Today” show for effect on television doesn’t mean the swimmers willingly falsified a police report. Conger and Bentz were not charged with a crime for their roles in the incident, but Feigen donated $11,000 to charity in order to avoid charges and Lochte — home safely in the U.S. — still faces charges and the court of public opinion.