Two American swimmers were yanked from their flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities Wednesday night and held for several hours.
Jack Conger and Gunner Bentz were detained and released after agreeing to stay in Brazil to talk with investigators. Brazilian police are investigating reports that American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and three teammates, including Bentz and Conger, were robbed at gunpoint in Brazil in the early morning hours Sunday outside of a gas station.
Initial reports that Lochte and three other members of the U.S. Olympic swimming team were robbed at gun point came from Lochte’s mother Sunday morning. The International Olympic Committee initially denied that the robbery took place, until both Lochte and the U.S. Olympic Committee confirmed that the incident occurred.
Police say they’ve found little evidence supporting the claims of robbery at gunpoint. Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, meanwhile, reported “Lochte told police he was so drunk that he had no way of knowing or taxi color they were traveling.”
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A Brazilian judge issued an order Wednesday to prevent Lochte and one of his teammates, James Feigen, from leaving the country after questions emerged regarding the veracity of their testimony to police. Lochte had already left the country and is in the United States, while Feigen’s location is currently unknown.
ABC News reported on Thursday morning that video taped footage from a gas station that shows the swimmers fighting with security. ABC News reported that one video shows one of the swimmers breaking down a bathroom door and then fighting with a security guard:
#BREAKING Brazil sources: #RyanLochte + 3 swimmers fabricated robbery story. Video shows swimmer “fighting” w/security at gas station @GMA
— Matt Gutman (@mattgutmanABC) August 18, 2016
NOW: Video shows 1 of the US swimmers breaking down bathroom door at gas station & fighting w/security guard, police tell @ABC. #Lochtestory
— T.J. Holmes (@tjholmes) August 18, 2016
Lochte described the ordeal to NBC’s Today Show: “We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte told the show. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground, they got down on the ground.”
Lochte said that he initially refused to get down on the ground, stating that he didn’t do anything wrong, and at that point one of the men pulled out a gun and cocked it to his forehead and said to get down. Lochte complied, and the men took his money and his wallet but left his cell phone and his credentials.
Some discrepancies emerged after police and the media interviewed the swimmers. Lochte initially told police that there was one armed robber, while Feigen said that there was more than one. The Daily Mail obtained video, showing the swimmers returning to the Olympic village on Sunday morning, joking and laughing while holding what appears to be their cell phones and wallets.
In a Sunday NBC interview with reporter Billy Bush, Lochte said that the taxi he was in was side-swiped, but Lochte then told NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer that the car was not side-swiped, and that it was standing still. Lochte had said Sunday that his taxi was side-swiped and forced to pull over to a gas station, while he said Wednesday the taxi was already stopped at the gas station as the men had to use the restroom.
According to Lochte, he and his teammates did not immediately alert police of the incident because they were fearful that they may get in trouble. His attorney told USA Today that Lochte, “didn’t want this to turn into what it did,” and that, “The Olympics are more important and Team USA’s performances are more important.”
Brazilian authorities have their own reasons to question whether or not a robbery took place. The high profile incident could be looked at as embarrassing for police, and so they have an incentive to explore the possibility that the incident was fabricated. Crimes in Brazil often go unsolved, and with all of the focus regarding this case, the police are under a lot of pressure to find the perpetrators. A string of armed robberies have occurred during the games, with one athlete claiming that he was actually briefly kidnapped and robbed by the police just days before the Olympics began.
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