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RIO DE JANEIRO – When news broke that Ryan Lochte and three other U.S. Olympic swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning, the spokesman for Rio 2016 offered a full-throated apology.
“We regret the violence has got so close to the athletes,” Mario Andrada said, during a daily briefing. “We apologize to those involved and regret that violence is an issue in these Games.”
But since then, the athletes’ story has unraveled to the point where there are serious concerns it’s a hoax. ABC News reports there is a security video of one of the swimmers “breaking down the door to the bathroom at a gas station and fighting with a security guard” at the site of the alleged robbery. That, combined with other inconsistencies, casts doubt on the tale that garnered global headlines.
So does Andrada retract the apology?
“I do not regret having apologized,” he said.
Should the American swimmers apologize to the people of Rio and the Olympic organizers?
“No apologizes from [Lochte] or other athletes are needed,” said Andrada, who then framed the matter as a youthful indiscretion for a 32-year-old man and his friends.
“We have to understand that these kids were trying to have fun. They came here, they represent their country to the best of their ability. They train for years. They competed under gigantic pressure. I understand they’re under investigation. I can’t go much further into the details,” said Andrada.
“But let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret. Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all times. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”
While Lochte had already left Brazil, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were still in Rio. Bentz and Conger were detained at the Rio de Janeiro International Airport as they were attempting to fly home, and will be questioned further by police.
“I’m not a legal expert, but I understand they provided what’s called false testimony. So the police have to carry this investigation,” said Andrada.
Overall, the Rio 2016 spokesman said that they’ll allow the investigation to play out, as it’s suddenly showing the maligned city and Olympic experience in a different light.
“People who saw the bad side when it was first reported, now see we’re on the right side. Why would we need to request an apology, if the facts are speaking for themselves?” he said.
That said, the Rio Games continue to be maligned by crime, as there are reports that an athlete from Great Britain was robbed on Wednesday night. But Andrada bristled at the notion that there have been several instances of people being robbed at gunpoint during the Games.
“When you say ‘several’ reports, we didn’t have several,” he said. “We had ‘some.'”
Good to know.
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