Swimmer Detained in Brazil Disputes Police Story: ‘We Did Not Force Entry Into the Bathroom’

AP Photo
The Associated Press

American swimmer James Feigen issued an apology for and an account of an encounter with off-duty Rio police at a gas station during the Summer Olympics that led to an international incident.

The statement, issued through the Olympian’s lawyers, began with an apology but corrected the record by obliquely indicating that the swimmer never entered the gas station’s bathroom, let alone destroyed its door, mirror, and soap dispenser. USA Today reported that the door, mirror, and soap dispenser in the business’s bathroom appeared neither new nor damaged. The newspaper also discovered that, as the swimmers initially reported, the men sticking them up for money indeed worked as police officers when not pulling private security details.

Feigen writes:

This unfortunate incident began after leaving a celebration at the French House. We left the party at around 5:00 am in a taxi to travel back to the Athlete Village. On our way back we asked the cab driver to pull over so we could relieve ourselves. We pulled over to a gas station to use the bathroom but the door was locked. We did not force entry into the bathroom, nor did we ever enter the bathroom. We did, however, make the regrettable decision to urinate in the grass behind the building.

On our way back to the cab, Ryan Lochte pulled a poster in a metal frame off a wall. I got back into the cab and waited for the others. One of my teammates told me that a man with a gun was standing outside the cab. The man with the gun spoke with the cab driver, who got out of the cab. We then got out of the cab and I paid the driver the fare. As I walked away, the man with the gun pointed it at me and my teammate and ordered us, in Portuguese, to sit. This was the first time I have ever had a gun pointed at me and I was terrified.

I put my hands up and sat down on the curb. It became apparent that the man with the gun was telling us to pay, and I was unsure if they were affiliated with the gas station. Gunnar Bentz and I gave the man some money. We were then allowed to leave and we took another cab to the Village, arriving around 7:00 am.

After the off-duty cops shook him down at the gas station, Feigen’s statement indicates that the on-duty authorities moved to grab their take. Initially, Brazilian authorities gave him the choice to remain in Brazil for the duration of a legal case against him or pay $31,250 and perform more than two weeks of community service to leave. When Feigen balked, the prosecutor upped the fine to $46,875. Finally, the parties settled for $10,800, with Brazilian authorities not letting the gold medalist leave until receipt of the money.