Latin America & Caribbean

US swimmers were not robbed, says Rio police chief

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Media captionFootage was released purportedly showing four US swimmers at a petrol station in Rio

Four US Olympic gold medal swimmers who said they had been robbed in Rio de Janeiro were not victims of crime, the head of the city's civil police says.

Fernando Veloso told reporters that one or more of the men had instead vandalised part of a petrol station and then offered to pay for the damage.

The Americans paid and left after armed security guards intervened, he said.

One guard had justifiably drawn his gun after one of the swimmers began behaving erratically, Mr Veloso added.

Three of the swimmers remain in Brazil. The fourth, Ryan Lochte, returned to the US on Monday.

Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were prevented from leaving Brazil at Rio de Janeiro airport on Wednesday night and have since been questioned by police. Team-mate James Feigen has also remained in Brazil and says he is co-operating with the authorities.

Five times Lochte made a splash

The swimmers, who have repeatedly changed their accounts of what happened, could "in theory" face charges of giving false testimony and vandalism, Mr Veloso told reporters during a news conference at Rio police headquarters.

Mr Lochte was "very angry because he was intoxicated" during the incident, he said.

The people of Rio were unhappy to see the reputation of their city damaged, Mr Veloso said, adding: "We are dealing with important public figures who influence others and should know how to comport themselves... An apology would be welcomed."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were questioned at a Rio police station after being taken off a US-bound plane

Earlier, a Rio 2016 spokesman had tried to make light of the case.

"These kids tried to have fun, they tried to represent their country to the best of their abilities," Mario Andrada told reporters.

"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."

How the story evolved

Sunday 14 August

  • Ryan Lochte's mother tells US media her son has been robbed in Rio de Janeiro
  • Mr Lochte gives an account of the events, saying he and the other swimmers were returning by taxi from a club in the early hours of the morning when they were robbed at gunpoint by men who forced the vehicle to pull over
  • The swimmers do not report the incident to police or to the US Olympic Committee, and police officers only get involved after seeing TV reports

Monday 15 August

  • Police investigating the case say there are inconsistencies in the men's accounts

Tuesday 16 August

  • CCTV footage emerges of the men's return to the athletes' village showing them laughing and joking, and handing over wallets and phones as they go through the security screens

Wednesday 17 August

  • Ryan Lochte admits there were inaccuracies in his original account of being robbed at gunpoint, but vehemently denies making the story up
  • Judge orders that the passports of the four men be seized before it emerges that Mr Lochte has already left for the US
  • Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger taken off a US-bound plane at Rio de Janeiro airport

Thursday 18 August

  • Brazilian police sources tell media outlets that the men invented a story about a robbery to disguise a dispute over a damaged bathroom door at a petrol station in Barra da Tijuca, 16km (10 miles) from the Olympic Park
  • CCTV video emerges that appears to show the athletes being detained and ordered to sit on the ground
  • Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger enter a Rio police station for questioning
  • Head of Rio's civil police emphatically denies a robbery took place, saying the case centred around an incident of vandalism and payment for damage

Who are the swimmers?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ryan Lochte: 12 Olympic medals
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption James Feigen won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay

Lochte is one of the most successful swimmers in history, with 12 Olympic medals, and he once had his own reality television show in the US. In Rio, he swam in two events, winning gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay along with Conger.

Feigen won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Bentz competed in the 4x200m preliminaries, but not the final. He still received a gold medal after the US team's win.

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