Criminal Justice

Two US swimmers are pulled from plane; official alleges armed robbery claim was a lie

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Updated: An anonymous police official has told news organizations that four U.S. swimmers in Rio were not held up at gunpoint early Sunday, but they were confronted by an armed security guard after breaking a bathroom door.

A police official, who asked to remain anonymous, alleged in interviews with the Associated Press and the New York Times that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte made up the story about the robbery. The official told AP that the swimmers broke the locked door to a gas station restroom and were confronted by a security guard with a pistol.

The report follows the detention of two swimmers on the U.S. Olympic teams after they were pulled from their flight late Wednesday amid the investigation into armed holdup claims. Olympic officials say swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were released from custody after agreeing to stay in Brazil and speak with police, report the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and the Washington Post.

Police were seeking information about claims that those two swimmers, along with two others, were held up after leaving a dance party early Sunday. Police launched the investigation after the robbery claims were aired in the media. Lochte had said in a TV interview that he was among a group of four U.S. swimmers who were held up early Sunday by men with a police badge.

Police had reportedly obtained a court order to detain Conger and Bentz, a source tells the Wall Street Journal. They did not answer any questions while detained, their lawyer said. But they would “collaborate with Brazilian justice” after some confusion over the court order and a police officer’s statement is resolved, according to the lawyer, Sergio Riera.

Lochte changed his account of the holdup in a second interview on Wednesday with NBC. A perpetrator did not actually hold a gun to his head, though the weapon was pointed in his “general direction,” Lochte said. And the swimmers’ taxi was not actually pulled over by the thieves; rather it had stopped at a gas station so the swimmers could use the bathroom, Lochte said.

A judge with a special tribunal for sporting events had noted “possible divergences” in swimmers’ accounts of the holdup and ordered the seizure of passports for Lochte and swimmer James Feigen, officials confirmed on Wednesday. Lochte had already left the country, however. Feigen was reportedly still in the country.

Feigen’s statement to police said he was asleep in the taxi when he realized it was being stopped, and a man ordered the swimmers to get out of the taxi, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Lochte’s lawyer, Jeff Ostrow, previously told the Washington Post that Lochte cooperated with police, and the incident happened “exactly the way Ryan described it” to police.

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