Rio de Janeiro – American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro, a Brazilian police official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
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.
The official said a few of the swimmers then pushed on the door and broke it. A security guard appeared and confronted them.
The guard was armed with a pistol, but he never took it out or pointed it at the swimmers, the official said.
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. The official says after a discussion, they did pay him an unknown amount of money and left.
The news comes after two of those swimmers, Conger and Bentz, were yanked off a homebound flight Wednesday. The pair later told police that the robbery story had been fabricated, the Brazilian police official said.
Police have planned a Thursday afternoon news briefing on the incident. A message seeking comment was left with Lochte’s attorney.
“Let’s give these kids a break…they had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on,” a Rio Olympics spokesman told Reuters.
Feigen, who was not on the flight with Conger and Bentz, was ordered to stay in Brazil. He told USA Today that he’s cooperating with authorities. Lochte made it back to the U.S. before authorities could seize his passport.
Lochte 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 were held. Lochte claimed he had a gun pointed at his head.
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 that they 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.
But Lochte also said no one in law enforcement asked him to stay in the country for additional questioning and reportedly expressed surprise at the casual nature of authorities’ questioning.
Asked by Matt Lauer if he had made the robbery story up, Lochte denied the charge.
“He stopped me quickly and strongly denied that,” Lauer said. “He said, ‘That’s absolutely not the case. I wouldn’t make up a story like this, nor would the others. As a matter of fact, we all feel it makes us look bad. We’re victims in this and we’re happy that we’re safe.'”
But the group did not call police, authorities said, and officers began investigating once they saw media reports in which Lochte’s mother spoke about the robbery.
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 in or where the robbery happened, the police official said. The swimmers also could not say what time the events occurred.
Lochte described the alleged robbery to NBC’s “Today” show Sunday.
“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,” Lochte said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.”
Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates didn’t initially tell the U.S. Olympic officials about the robbery “because we were afraid we’d get in trouble.”