Brazilian authorities let two US swimmers leave Rio on Thursday after they retracted a claim to have been victims of a dramatic mugging during the Olympic Games, officials said.
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were given back their confiscated passports and “recently departed Rio,” US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement.
The US Olympic chief also offered an apology “to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil,” saying the swimmers’ behavior “is not acceptable” and that “potential consequences” would be decided later.
A third swimmer, James Feigen, has also given police “a revised statement” about the apparently invented mugging story “with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible,” Blackmun said.
The fourth, swimming superstar Ryan Lochte, was already back in the United States when the scandal erupted.
Lochte faced calls from police to apologise to Brazil on Thursday night for concocting a story about being mugged to cover up the fact that he and three team-mates had smashed up a petrol station.
The swimmer, who has six Olympic gold medals, claimed that the quartet had been robbed at gunpoint by someone impersonating a police officer when their taxi stopped to refuel.
The reputation of the city was damaged because of this fantasy version, said Fernando Veloso, head of the Civil Police, said. “They should ask for the forgiveness from the city of Rio.”
His comments came as Lochte and Feigen, were indicted on Thursday night for the false reporting of a crime to police, Brazil’s Globo news channel reported. The penalty for the offence is one to six months in jail or a fine.
At a press conference earlier, police only said they were considering charges against the men.
Police said that CCTV footage showed one of the swimmers fighting with staff at a Shell petrol station in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca, 10 miles from the Olympic Park, and breaking down the door to a lavatory. An armed security guard is said to have waved a gun at them and demanded they hand over cash to pay for the damage before they were allowed to leave.
Two of the swimmers, fellow gold medalists Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, were hauled off an aeroplane as they tried to leave Brazil on Wednesday to be questioned by police.
Mr Blackmun indicated that the athletes questioned by police Thursday had recanted and confirmed the police version of the incident.
“They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where one of the athletes committed an act of vandalism,” the statement said.
“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. Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave.”
Conger and Bentz told Rio’s Civil Police that they and Lochte had been very drunk and had not had any items stolen in the incident.
There was a robbery of the facts, said the police chief, who revealed two women had been seen with swimmers earlier. The people who have helped us with this inquiry are worried about retaliation.
We are now looking at the motivation of the two athletes who gave false information.”
Mr Veloso confirmed one of the four swimmers vandalised a petrol station bathroom then tried to flee but the taxi driver was told not to let them.
On Wednesday, a judge had ordered Lochte to surrender his passport but he flew back to the US before police could apprehend him. The fourth swimmer, James Feigen, has been co-operating with Brazilian police. Lochte, 32, had told the US broadcaster NBC previously: 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.
And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and said, ‘get down’, and I put my hands up. He took our money, he took my wallet, he left my cell phone, he left my credentials. Police became suspicious after CCTV showed the swimmers returning to the Olympic Village in high spirits, with their wallets visible and making jokes.
Mr Veloso said the petrol station security guard pulled out a firearm because one swimmer was acting erratically, but none were harmed. He said the group offered 50 reals and a $20 bill to pay for the damage and left.
Lochte’s taxi driver had come forward with his version of events, confirming what the police thought was going on, he said. Asked about claims two women had been with the group, he added: One of the athletes has a relationship with someone else, so he has a reason to deny what happened.
Meanwhile British athletes face being banned from leaving the Olympic Village after a member of Team GB was mugged during a night out. The athlete was said to be shocked but not hurt.
A hen do in Rio with the rowing girls…what could go wrong?! pic.twitter.com/yXvI0MoEan
It did not, however, prevent the gold medal-winning rower Helen Glover enjoying a hen night in Rio on Wednesday with other members of the rowing crew. Glover, who will marry the television presenter Steve Backshall next month, posted a picture on Twitter of herself with a group of rowers, with the caption: A hen do in Rio with the rowing girls … what could go wrong?!
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