The controversy over claims by American swimmers that they were the victims of robbery in Rio has taken yet another turn after Brazilian police claimed Ryan Lochte fabricated the story to cover up a fight at a petrol station.
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte said on Sunday that he and three other US swimmers were robbed at about 4am in a taxi headed for the Olympic Village. But on Wednesday, a Brazilian judge ordered that James Feigen and two other swimmers stay in the country for further questioning, while police carry out their investigation of the alleged robbery. Two of the swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, were stopped by Brazilian authorities as they sought to board a flight to the US.
A police official told the Associated Press that the incident happened whe a group of US swimmers stopped on their way back after a night out at a petrol station and tried to use a toilet. Some of the swimmers pushed on the lavatory door and broke it. A security guard appeared and confronted them, the official said.
The police official said the guard was armed with a pistol, but he never took it out or pointed it at the swimmers. According to the official, the manager then arrived. Using a customer to translate, the manager asked the swimmers to pay for the broken door. After a discussion, they did pay him an unknown amount of money and then left, the AP said.
The official said that swimmers Conger and Bentz, who were pulled off a plane going back to the US late on Wednesday, told police that the robbery story had been fabricated.
Prosecutors have also said that CCTV footage caught the swimmers returning to the Olympic Village laughing and smiling, and exhibiting no behaviours characteristic of people who had just undergone the shock of a mugging at gunpoint. Additionally, X-ray scan documents reviewed by investigators showed that the swimmers had their wallets – which they claimed were among the items stolen in the Saturday robbery
Brazilian police sources earlier told ABC News that the footage from the petrol station showed one of the men fighting with a security guard. Lochte, who has already returned to the US, told reporters on Wednesday that the swimmers used a toilet at the fuel station and when they got back to their taxi, the driver did not move. That was when two men approached with guns and badges and told them to get out and get down, Lochte said.
It contradicts an earlier statement that they were robbed when their taxi was flagged down by men posing as police officers.
The three swimmers who remain in Brazil are due to meet law enforcement officers on Thursday. A spokesman for the US Olympic Committee said Conger and Bentz were released by local authorities after being removed from their flight on Wednesday on the understanding that they would meet again with investigators.
Lochte's father told the AP by phone from his Florida home that his son called him on Tuesday after arriving in the US. The 32-year-old swimmer was going to pick up his car and buy a new wallet to replace the one that he said was stolen. “I'm just happy he's safe,” Steve Lochte said. "It was an unfortunate experience for him and the other three.”
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