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Ryan Lochte’s U.S. swimming teammates told Brazilian authorities Thursday the 12-time Olympic gold medalist fabricated their story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro, according to ESPN.
Details of the alleged fabrication first came Thursday morning from ABC News correspondent Matt Gutman, who cited Brazilian authority sources claiming the existence of video footage showing a U.S. swimmer “breaking down” a bathroom door and “fighting” security at a gas station around the time the robbery allegedly occurred. Video footage of a verbal confrontation between the four U.S. Olympic swimmers and security at the gas station was released later Thursday by Brazil’s O Globo newspaper.
American swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, James Feigen and Lochte first claimed to be victims of an alleged armed robbery of their taxi cab en route to the Olympic Village on their way back from a party at the French hospitality house early Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Video obtained by the Daily Mail on Tuesday appeared to show the U.S. swimmers returning to the Olympic Village around 7 a.m. on Sunday — after the alleged robbery — carrying valuables and joking with each other. According to reports, Brazilian police grew skeptical when the swimmers failed to provide important details about the robbery, including when and where the incident occurred.
During multiple interviews with members of NBC’s Today show, Lochte stood by the robbery story.
“We got pulled over in our taxi and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge,” Lochte told the Today show’s Billy Bush in a taped interview Sunday. “No lights, no nothing, just a police badge. They pulled us over, 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 said ‘get down.’ I put my hands up. I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet.”
Speaking with Today’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday, Lochte reiterated, “We wouldn’t make this story up. We’re victims in this and we’re happy that we’re safe.” However, the six-time Olympic gold medalist altered details about his original story during Wednesday’s conversation with Lauer, saying they stopped at the gas station to use the men’s room and the gun was aimed in his “general direction.”
Gutman’s report Thursday morning appeared to contradict Lochte’s account of the alleged robbery.
Later Thursday, the gas station owner told Brazil’s O Globo news the U.S. quartet urinated on his Shell franchise’s walls in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood at the time in question. Meanwhile, the British Daily Mail reported a security guard drew a gun at the swimmers after they drunkenly “destroyed a gas station toilet and refused to pay for the damage.” The swimmers then reportedly paid.
The video footage released by O Globo shows the four U.S. swimmers retreating into an alley on the property before returning to their taxi. At that point, someone approaches the vehicle, the swimmers get out, and they’re led to a landing outside the gas station, where they sit with their arms raised.
O Globo’s footage did not include a broken bathroom door or a physical confrontation with security, although USA Today maintained the swimmers damaged a bathroom door when they could not enter.
On Wednesday, sufficiently skeptical of the U.S. Olympians’ accounts, a Brazilian judge issued a search and seizure warrant to further question the swimmers. While Lochte had already returned to the U.S., Conger and Bentz were removed from their flight home by Brazilian authorities on Wednesday night. Feigen also remained in Brazil. All three were cooperating with Brazilian police, the USOC said.
As authorities rounded up his teammates in Rio, Lochte tweeted the following about his silver hair:
After being released by authorities early Thursday, Bentz and Conger were reportedly joined by Feigen for more questioning later in the day, accompanied by legal representation arranged by the USOC and U.S. Consulate. Per ESPN, the swimmers told police that Lochte had fabricated the robbery story.
Again, Lochte seemed to stick to his story, when “sources directly connected to the swimmer” told TMZ Sports he mistook gas station security personnel for local police, and three minutes edited from the released surveillance footage cut out the portion where they were held at gunpoint. A Brazilian police source told the Associated Press two security guards aimed guns at the American swimmers.
Is it possible a quartet of intoxicated swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom, urinated on the walls outside, returned to their taxi and thought the security guards who demanded money from them at gunpoint were actually policemen? Sure, it’s possible, but that would mean they also conveniently left out details about destruction of property and public urination from their accounts.
Is it possible Brazilian authorities are looking to make an example of American swimmers, in light of public criticism of the rampant crime in Rio de Janeiro, even if that means turning a blind eye to security guards holding four Olympians at gunpoint and demanding restitution? Sure, that’s possible, too, but that line of thinking would excuse Lochte & Co. from acting like drunken you-know-whats.
So, here we are, watching a Summer Olympics filled with fascinating storylines devolve into a circus.
Which brings us to this statement from International Olympic Committee spokesman Mario Andrada:
“I do not regret having apologized. No apologies from him or other athletes are needed. We have to understand that these kids came here to have fun. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”
According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, the swimmers could face up to six months in jail or a fine for knowingly filing a false police report. Brazil reportedly cannot force Lochte to be extradited from the U.S., but the three swimmers who remain in Rio could be forced to stay for “weeks or months” as their legal issues play out in the wake of the strangest of Rio Olympic stories.
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