Brazil police official: Lochte made up story about robbery
RIO DE JANEIRO >> A Brazilian police official is telling The Associated Press that American swimmer Ryan Lochte fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro.
The official, who has direct knowledge of the investigation, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about an ongoing probe.
He said that around 6 a.m. on Sunday, Lochte, along with fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen, stopped at a gas station in Barra da Tijuca, a suburb of Rio where many Olympic venues are located. One of the swimmers tried to open the door of an outside bathroom. It was locked.
A few of the swimmers then pushed on the door and broke it. A security guard appeared and confronted them, the official said.
The official says the guard was armed with a pistol, but he never took it out or pointed it at the swimmers.
According to the official, the gas station 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 official says that swimmers Conger and Bentz, who were pulled off a plane going back to the United States late Wednesday, told police that the robbery story had been fabricated.
A police news conference was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said late Thursday morning that Lochte's teammates were scheduling a time and place to meet with authorities.
"All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio," Sandusky said.
Conger and Bentz were released by local authorities early Thursday after being pulled from a flight at the Rio de Janeiro airport amid uncertainty over what truly took place during the late outing the night Olympic swimming wrapped up at the Rio Games.
Court officials had called for the four swimmers' passports to be seized, but Lochte already had returned to the United States before authorities could enforce the decision.
Reached Thursday in Austin, Texas, Feigen attorney Mark Hull said: "We don't have any comment yet at this point."
Representatives from the U.S. consulate arrived at the airport shortly after the swimmers were stopped from leaving the country Wednesday night. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the agency was ready "to provide all appropriate consular assistance," referring further questions to Brazilian officials.
Brazilian authorities continued pressing the American swimmers over the ever-changing account of the robbery. Police said they have found little evidence so far to support the claims and that the swimmers were unable to provide key details in interviews. The office of Judge Keyla Blanc, who ordered the passports seized, said there were discrepancies in the statements by the swimmers.
Lochte has said he was with Conger, Bentz and Feigen when they were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with a police badge as they returned to the athletes village from a party several hours after the final Olympic swimming events on Saturday.
NBC reported Wednesday night that Lochte backed off some of his earlier claims about the robbery. He now says the taxi wasn't pulled over by men with a badge but rather the athletes were robbed after stopping at a gas station, NBC reported. Lochte also said the assailant pointed a gun at him rather than putting it to his head.
Lochte's father told the AP by phone from his Florida home that his son called him Tuesday after arriving in the United States. 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."
While he's medaled often in the Olympic pool, Lochte's accomplishments have long been overshadowed by teammate Michael Phelps — the most decorated Olympian in history. Lochte won a gold in Rio in a relay race alongside Phelps.
Authorities said that after the incident, the swimmers did not call police; officers began investigating after they saw media reports in which Lochte's mother spoke about the incident.
Police interviewed Lochte and one other swimmer, who said they had been intoxicated and could not remember what type and color of taxi they rode, where the incident happened or what time the events occurred, the police official said.
Lochte's attorney, Jeff Ostrow, has said there is no question the robbery occurred.
"Why would anybody fabricate anything?" Steve Lochte said. "It's just ridiculous."
Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates didn't initially tell U.S. Olympic officials about the robbery because "we were afraid we'd get in trouble."
Steve Bentz, father of Gunnar Bentz, when reached by phone late Wednesday night, said: "I really don't want to say anything," and hung up.
The British Olympic team said Thursday one of its athletes also was robbed in Rio. The British Olympic Association was responding to a Guardian report that the unnamed athlete was held up at gunpoint after a night out. The BOA declined to say if the incident was reported to police.
Contributing to this report were AP reporters Peter Prengaman, Chris Lehourites, Pauline Arrillaga and Renata Brito in Rio de Janeiro, and Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the lawyer for two of the swimmers is Sergio Riera, not Sergio Viegas.
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