Rio de Janeiro police officials and Olympics organizers allege that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte and three other athletes robbed at gunpoint this weekend delayed notifying police and lodged contradicting reports tainted by their admission of consuming alcohol that night.
The new reports of police suspicion regarding their robbery follows a remark by Brazil’s Sports Minister Leonardo Picciani that the athletes’ assault was a product of their straying from the Olympic Village, not a security failure by his government or the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports that police have noted that Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen – all returning home from a party Saturday night – have provided police with contradictory details. According to police, Lochte told police their taxi was stopped in a false “police blitz” by armed men displaying badges. Feigen, meanwhile, said the taxi pulled over of its own accord before the robbers approached.
Both Lochte and Feigen said they took a second cab home after the assault, but neither could provide identifying details for the second cab. Neither athlete said they lost their mobile phones or other valuables, only cash.
“In his testimony, Lochte said he was drunk and did not remember all the facts clearly,” O Globo notes.
The small discrepancies in the testimony may be used against the robbery victims, as Brazilian officials have already indicated an unwillingness to take responsibility for the crime, and Olympic officials even denied claims that Lochte had been robbed, initially.
On Sunday morning, reports surfaced through Lochte’s mother, Ileana Lochte, that her son had been robbed at gunpoint. Lochte himself later testified that he and his fellow athletes were traveling home in a taxi when they were stopped by men appearing to be police.
“We got pulled over in our taxi and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge. No lights, no nothing, just a police badge,” Lochte told NBC. “The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and said ‘get down.’ I was like [puts hands up] I put my hands up. I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet.”
Before Lochte could give his story, both the IOC and it’s US subsidiary had denied it, citing an alleged confirmation it never happened from Lochte himself. Olympics officials have subsequently apologized, though Brazilian officials have heaped some of the blame on the athletes themselves.
“The delegations haven’t had any problems. We can’t judge by one incident or another that takes place outside of the competition areas at inappropriate times,” Minister of Sports Leonardo Picciani said of the robbery. “Certainly no athlete has had any problems where they are staying, during their training or in the Olympic Village.”
The Wall Street Journal notes that police now also claim that the athletes took a suspiciously long time to report the incident, and that the IOC and USOC only found out about it through the media. The Journal also notes there is a simple explanation for why Lochte and Feigen’s testimonies differ: Feigen was asleep when the car was stopped, making him unable to see whether the robbers stopped the vehicle or the cab driver parked before they appeared.
Police have yet to identify, let alone detain, the taxi driver in question, and have not been able to find the second cab driver who drove the athletes home after the incident. Investigators told O Globo that “there is no way to identify the taxi” from surveillance footage.
While most media reports have assumed the robbers to be impersonating police, no evidence has surfaced identifying the men as civilians, and Brazil’s Military Police have a record of using their stature to commit crimes. Most recently, shortly before the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, two members of the Military Police kidnapped jiu-jitsu champion Jason Lee and forced him to withdraw money for them at a local ATM.
The civilian Rio de Janeiro police investigating the Lochte robbery is a separate entity from the Brazilian Military Police, called into Rio for added security during the Games.