UPDATE: US swimmer James Feigen is to make a 10,800 dollar (£8,200) payment and leave Brazil, his lawyer has said.
A group of US Olympic swimmers fabricated claims they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio and could be charged with vandalism and giving false testimony, local police have said.
The unpicking of their story was followed by the US Olympic Committee apologising for “unacceptable behaviour”.
Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen have caused the biggest scandal of the Games after Lochte - the biggest star - told US television of a robbery involving gunmen impersonating police officers, who pulled over their taxi in the early hours of Sunday, as they returned to the Athletes’ Village from a party.
The reality, however, appears to be very different.
According to civil police chief Fernando Veloso, reported by Reuters, who detailed what he knew in a press conference:
- The incident happened at a Rio gas station, where the men were seen on video camera urinating and vandalising the bathroom.
- The group clashed with staff at the station, and handed over a total of 100 reais ($31) and $20 in US currency as compensation for the damage.
- At one point, a security guard pulled a firearm after one swimmer behaved erratically. Veloso said the guard had not over-reacted: “From the moment the gun was pulled out, they calmed down. Once they were calm, the gun was lowered.”
Three of the swimmers are being prevented from leaving Brazil pending the outcome of the police investigation. Lochte returned to the US on Monday.
Earlier, Brazilian TV aired a video that undermined their original accounts.
The security-camera images broadcast on Globo TV appeared to show the swimmers in a dispute with staff at a gas station.
While the footage from the Shell service station does not show them causing any damage, they are being hustled out of the bathroom by uniformed employees and the Americans appear to offer security guards money from their wallets after prevented the swimmers from leaving in a taxi.
Veloso confirmed the Brazilian police are considering charges charging with vandalism and giving false testimony.
“In theory, they could be held responsible - by they, I mean one or two or all four of them - with falsely reporting a crime and vandalism.”
On Sunday, Lochte had told NBC that the taxi he was traveling in with his three team mates was flagged down by robbers posing as police, and they held a gun to his head during a robbery. He made no mention of stopping at a gas station.
Rio Games organisers on Thursday defended the four swimmers, saying they were just kids who made a mistake. Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada told reporters:
“These kids tried to have fun, they tried to represent their country to the best of their abilities.
“They competed under gigantic pressure. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometime you take actions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”
But some in the US media are of a different mind.
And following the rash of bad publicity, the US Olympic Committee issued a statement that included an apology.
The key passage read:
“The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members. We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.
“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence.”
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