A decorated American Olympian says he and three of his teammates were robbed at gunpoint.
Brazilian police say that’s not true.
After days of confusion about what actually happened to Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, there’s now video of much of the incident, which occurred at a gas station in the early morning of August 14.
Bentz and Conger gave statements Thursday denying having been victims of a robbery and said that the version of events presented by Lochte was not true, Civil Police said.
The United States Olympic Committee CEO has apologized for the incident.
On Monday, Lochte called it a robbery. Brazilian authorities disagree.
One thing they do agree on: A gun was brandished and money exchanged hands.
However, the stories seem to diverge at a single point — when Lochte re-entered a taxi after stopping at the gas station.
The latest: An apology and two athletes head home
The United States Olympic Committee has issued an apology for the incident.
“The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members. We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun.
“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence.”
The statement says that the incident, as the they understand it, happened at a gas station.
The four stopped to use a restroom where one of them committed an act of vandalism.
“An argument ensued between the athletes and two armed gas station security staff, who displayed their weapons, ordered the athletes from their vehicle and demanded the athletes provide a monetary payment,” the statement said. “Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave.”
Conger and Bentz were taken off an airliner on Wednesday night as they were preparing to go home after Brazilian judge to issue warrants for the seizure of the Americans’ passports so they couldn’t leave the country before they were questioned.
Officials said Conger and Bentz spoke with police Thursday at the tourist police office.
The two gave a statement to police in which they denied having been victim of a robbery and clarified that the version of events presented by Ryan Lochte was not true, according to a Facebook post from Civil Police.
They’re now on their way home, according to the USOC.
While it is possible that criminal charges might be sought against one or more of the athletes, it is unlikely at this point, Civil Police chief Fernando Veloso said.
The owner of the gas station is not pressing charges for damage to property after the athletes paid 100 Brazilian reals and a $20 bill for the damages, Velso said. The other potential charges include false communication of a crime but this too seemed unlikely since the athletes did not bring their charges to authorities, he said.
“This kind of crime will not lead to their arrest,” Veloso said.
An attorney for Lochte, Jeff Ostrow, brushed off suggestions of conflicting stories, saying the four swimmers’ accounts “are 95% consistent.”
He says his client, who won his sixth Olympic gold medal in the pool in Rio, has been cooperative with authorities and has not been asked again for assistance. Brazilians are working with US authorities to get Lochte interviewed, Veloso said.
Lochte left the country on either Monday or Tuesday — before the warrants were issued.
The police early on had doubts about the 32-year-old swimmer’s veracity.
First, the Rio cops learned on social media that four Americans had reputedly been mugged — a story Lochte told in hair-raising detail to the US media — said Veloso at a press conference Thursday. Detectives hit the streets to find out if this stain on Rio’s reputation as a host of the Games was true.
They tracked down witnesses, including three of Lochte’s fellow swimmers at the scene, reviewed surveillance tapes and made a ruling on whether the accounts looked or sounded like a robbery.
Police concluded that the only crimes committed were by Lochte and his compatriots. Either one or all of them vandalized a gas station, which initiated a confrontation with security guards, Veloso said. No criminal charges were initially brought because the athletes coughed up a small amount of money to pay for the damages, he said.
“The surveillance tapes show that there was no violence against the athletes at the gas station,” Veloso said. “Their claim that they are a victim of an assault or robbery or any kind of violence is not true.”
The Brazilian police have now interviewed the other three swimmers and confirmed no robbery happened that night, Veloso said. Lochte returned to the United States before police could secure his passport to ensure his availability as they did the others.
Veloso says the other swimmers say it was Ryan Lochte who created the lie. “The only person that continues to say there was a robbery is [Lochte],” Velso said after the press conference.
The investigation showed security guards stopped the athletes from leaving the station until police could be called about the vandalism; and one did pull a gun on Lochte after he became angrily confrontational, Veloso said.
But Veloso insisted there was no evidence the guard’s actions were unreasonable, and he only used the gun to control Lochte, whom the police chief described as drunk.
“They — the security guards and everybody — they are really saying that Ryan Lochte was the one kind of responsible,” Veloso said. He emphasized, however, that the ongoing investigation still had not conclusively assigned blame.
Lochte has stuck by his story.
Though the USOC apologized, its statement still largely corroborates Lochte’s account.
The four were in a taxi, a gun was brandished and money was exchanged.
Two sources told CNN it was not a negotiation. The men made a money gesture with their hands and regardless of how it started, the swimmers had a gun pointed at them and they were not allowed to leave until they had given the money, the sources said.
Still some of the four swimmers’ fellow athletes aren’t so sure that at least extortion didn’t take place. The sources said that the athletes admitted urinating behind the building and then that men showed up and one held up a badge.
Soon the athletes were handing over money, although the sources did not say how much.
“It seems a little inconsistent that Brazilian authorities are suggesting that it’s impossible a robbery occurred, but conceding that somebody may have used a firearm to extract money from someone’s person,” said CNN Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos.
Cevallos noted that in the US it’s considered robbery if a gun is brandished and money is demanded, though it’s unclear if money was demanded from Lochte.
On Sunday, Lochte gave a chilling account to NBC, which is broadcasting the Olympics in the United States, 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. Lochte said two men tried to force them to the ground, one pointing a gun inches from him when he refused.