Brazilian news sources say video exists showing U.S. swimmers Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger engaged in a drunken altercation at a gas station. Police allege this proved they lied about being robbed early Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro.
The newspaper O Globo reports that police sources are saying the swimmers lied about being held up at gunpoint. “According to videos shown to officials, the Olympic medalists arrived around 6AM, already alarmed, possibly with high alcohol levels already and began to fool around in the establishment,” O Globo reports. “Employees complained, causing the altercation.” The report also claims the swimmers broke the gas station’s bathroom door.
Police admit the video quality is “not good.”
IOC spokesman Mario Andrada has responded to the controversy in a statement saying, “let’s give these kids a break.” Lochte, the oldest of the swimmers, is 32 years old.
Ryan Lochte’s attorney and father are both standing by his story of being robbed alongside three other U.S. Olympic swimmers in Brazil Saturday night, with attorney Jeff Ostrow clarifying that Brazilian officials never told Lochte he could not return home before attempting to seize his passport.
O Globo, citing NBC, quotes Ostrow as accusing Brazilian police of trying to “save their skin” after turning the incident into a “circus.” “They never said to stay close [to Rio],” he added, “Otherwise, I would have advised Ryan to stay.”
Lochte’s father, Steve, confirmed to the Associated Press that his son is safe at home, and expressed frustration with the antagonistic coverage of his robbery. “I’m just happy he’s safe. It was an unfortunate experience for him and the other three. I don’t know what all the controversy is,” he said. The elder Lochte also told CBS News the controversy was “ridiculous”: Why would anybody fabricate anything?”
Ryan Lochte was spending the day buying a new wallet, Steve Lochte said.
Lochte himself has not made any media appearances since he first told NBC’s Today that he had been robbed at gunpoint by men wearing police badges. NBC’s Matt Lauer said Thursday he had spoken to Lochte, however, and said that, save for some minor details, Lochte “stuck to most of the story.”
“They had gone to the bathroom in a gas station. They got back to the taxi, and when they told the taxi driver to go, he didn’t move,” Lauer said Lochte told him. “He said, ‘let’s go,’ again, ‘we’ve got to get out of here.’ And again the taxi driver didn’t move, and that’s when he says two men approached the car with guns and badges, told them to get out, to get on the ground.”
Lochte also said he did not have a gun physically touching his forehead, though the gun was pointed at him.
He has also said that he did not feel that Brazilian authorities questioned their story, and that some police even congratulated them on their swims at the Olympics.
A Brazilian judge banned Lochte and teammates Feigen, Bentz, and Conger from leaving the country on Wednesday; Lochte had left Brazil on Monday. Feigen, Bentz, and Conger were all forcibly removed from flights home on Wednesday night, their passports seized. They have not spoken to the media about their version of events. Feigen, reached earlier this week, told a reporter, “I can’t talk right now. I’m being sh–stormed right now.”
The four allege that they were robbed at gunpoint on a drive home from a party on Saturday night. Officials say Lochte and Feigen were inebriated and their stories unclear – while Lochte said a man with a gun approached them, Feigen said a group of robbers assaulted them, though only one possessed a gun.
Brazilian officials are insisting the small variations in details, which the swimmers attribute to their drunken state that night, are enough to investigate them. Police have not yet found the driver of the taxi they had taken when were robbed and appear to be following no leads regarding the identity of the robbers. Instead, they are launching an investigation into the alleged victims.
The Lochte robbery is the most high-profile in a string of violent crimes reported against Olympic and Paralympic athletes, confirming concerns before the Olympics began that Rio de Janeiro was ill-equipped to host the world’s most talented athletes for such an event. The most recent such event occurred on Wednesday, when an unnamed UK athlete was robbed returning to their Olympic Village room. The Great Britain Olympic team has refused to identify the athlete – perhaps concerned about exposing them to the same criticism Lochte has received – but has confirmed the victim is safe.
The incident appeared to occur at night, in contrast with the first such robbery, targeting a six-time Paralympian sailor. Australian Paralympian Liesl Tesch and teammate Sarah Ross were robbed in broad daylight a week before the Olympics, with the robber stealing her bicycle as she confirmed she did not have any cash on her.
Another athlete, New Zealand jiu-jitsu champion Jason Lee, was apprehended by military police and forced to go to an ATM and withdraw hundreds of dollars. Two military police officers were arrested in connection to the incident, confirming the robbers were not impersonating police, but actual officers.
In another instance of security officers committing crimes, a private security officer hired to keep the Olympic Village safe was arrested for raping a female firefighter posted at the village while she slept.
Brazilian officials have for months dismissed concerns about bringing such a tourist attraction to crime-ridden Rio. In July, asked whether officials had a solution to curb violent crime before the Olympics, Secretary of Public Security José Mariano Beltrame responded, “Historically, unfortunately, that is how Rio de Janeiro is.”