US swimmer Ryan Lochte and three Olympic teammates were not robbed in Rio as they claimed but were detained after drunkenly vandalizing a gas station bathroom, police said Thursday.
Rio de Janeiro’s police chief Fernando Veloso called on the gold medal-winning athlete and the others to apologize for the robbery claims that embarrassed the Olympic host city.
He said a video showed a security official pulling his weapon to restrain a drunk and angry Lochte and his teammates because they tried to leave after vandalizing the bathroom.
Lochte, 32, had claimed a man posing as a police officer robbed him and his teammates while they were coming back from a party in a taxi.
“There was no robbery of the kind reported by the athletes,” Veloso told a press conference however.
“The images do not show any kind of violence against them.”
He said police believed the swimmers handed over the equivalent of about $50 in cash to pay for the damage before finally leaving.
– Possible charges –
Veloso said it was still not decided what charges, if any, would be brought against the swimmers.
“In theory, they could end up facing charges of falsely reporting a crime and damage to property,” but neither offense is punishable by prison, he said.
“It would be noble and dignified of them to apologize. The only thing they told the truth about is that they were drunk.”
The chief spokesman for the Rio 2016 Games, Mario Andrada, had earlier apologized to the athletes for Lochte and his companions’ supposed ordeal.
On Thursday, Andrada said however that “no apologies from him or from the other athletes are needed.”
“Let’s give these kids a break,” Andrada told a news conference. “These kids were trying to have fun… They made a mistake, it is part of life.”
– Hauled off plane –
The security video shows the four swimmers getting out of a taxi after a man identified as the security officer approaches. Later they are seen being made to sit on the ground.
The footage came hours after two of the swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, were hauled off a plane about to leave Rio de Janeiro for the United States and taken in for questioning.
Lochte had already flown back to the United States. The fourth swimmer involved, James Feigen, was still in Brazil.
Veloso said Conger and Bentz had been questioned and one of them had corroborated witnesses’ accounts.
– International scandal –
Lochte is one of the most visible faces of the Olympics and a winner of six gold medals during his career.
He had said an assailant put a gun to his forehead after the swimmers’ taxi was pulled over by criminals who forced them to lie on the ground and stole money and other items.
“The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,'” Lochte recounted.
“He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
His report caused the Olympic authorities huge embarrassment and overshadowed sporting action in the second week of South America’s first Olympics.
It followed numerous incidents of theft from Olympic athletes and media.
Brazil has deployed 85,000 police and soldiers to secure the Games.
The Lochte affair coincided with the arrest in Rio of International Olympic Committee member Patrick Hickey on allegations of taking part in a black market ticket ring.
Hickey fell ill during his arrest Wednesday. He left hospital on Thursday in a black car following a police car.
He was expected to face interrogation.