RIO DE JANEIRO: Reports emerged Thursday that Ryan Lochte and three other US Olympic swimmers claiming to have been mugged in Rio in fact got into a fight with an armed gas station security guard.
The unconfirmed reports on ABC News and Brazilian news sites said an altercation occurred when the swimming stars had been out partying and that the incident was caught on security camera footage.
Brazil’s G1 site quoted Rio police saying that the athletes had stopped at the gas station in a taxi to use the bathroom. Globo website quoted the station manager saying the Americans urinated on the station wall.
They broke the bathroom door and tried to leave without paying for the damage, but a security guard pulled out his weapon and made them stay until police arrived, prompting a confrontation, G1 reported.
ABC quoted an unidentified Brazilian police source saying CCTV footage shows a swimmer “breaking down the door to the bathroom at the gas station and fighting with a security guard.”
Lochte originally said that he and Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and James Feigen were robbed by someone claiming to be a policeman early on Sunday.
The report caused the Olympic authorities huge embarrassment, highlighting security worries at an Olympics where Brazil has deployed 85,000 police and soldiers – double the number used in the 2012 London Games.
However, police soon raised doubts over the veracity of the allegation and the swimmers could face charges of filing a false claim.
Lochte is in the United States. Conger and Bentz were detained by Brazilian police late Wednesday just as they were about to take off from the international airport for home.
The whereabouts of Feigen remained unclear.
The scandal overshadowed sporting action in the second week of South America’s first Olympics, coming simultaneously with the arrest in Rio of IOC member Patrick Hickey on allegations of taking part in a black market ticket ring.
Hickey, who fell ill during his arrest Wednesday, was expected to face interrogation once he is released from hospital.
Conger and Bentz were detained on the order of a Brazilian judge who cited inconsistencies in their stories.
The two swimmers removed from the airplane were later released “with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday,” said Patrick Sandusky, spokesman for the US Olympic Committee.
Rio police said that agents were now “analysing content of the testimony already gathered in the investigation and putting it together with results of other ongoing actions.”
Lochte, one of the best known faces of the US Olympic squad, says the four were held up by muggers posing as police as they left a late night party in central Rio.
His harrowing story got worldwide attention.
He said he had a gun put 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 said afterwards. “He took our money, he took my wallet – he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
The apparently high-profile crime touched a nerve in Rio. In addition to multiple incidents of thefts from Olympic athletes and media, a Portuguese government minister was mugged in the swish Leblon district.
On Thursday, British Olympic officials said that an athlete had been robbed while returning to the Olympic Village, but was “safe and well.”
The Guardian newspaper reported that British athletes had now been warned not to leave the Village premises for their safety.