RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Three American Olympic swimmers planned to meet with Brazilian law enforcement Thursday to discuss a reported robbery targeting 12-time medalist Ryan Lochte and his teammates, a U.S. Olympic Committee official said.
USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky said Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were released by local authorities after being pulled from a flight at the Rio de Janeiro airport, with the understanding that discussions would continue amid uncertainty over what truly took place during a late outing the night Olympic swimming wrapped up at the Rio Games.
Fellow teammate Jimmy Feigen also plans to talk to officials, Sandusky said, as he navigates a judge’s order that keeps him in Brazil. The order similarly called for Lochte’s passport to be seized, but the star swimmer had already returned to the United States before authorities could enforce the decision.
A lawyer for Conger and Bentz said Thursday that they won’t be allowed to leave Brazil until they provide testimony to investigators. The swimmers didn’t speak to reporters as they left the airport, shuttled away by a black car waiting outside. They departed for an unspecified location in Brazil and had yet to testify, said attorney Sergio Viegas.
Representatives from the U.S. consulate arrived at the airport shortly after the swimmers were stopped from leaving the country.
The action comes amid increasing tension between Brazilian authorities and the American swimmers over the ever-changing account of the robbery. Police say they have found little evidence so far to support the claims, and that the swimmers were unable to provide key details in interviews. The office of Judge Keyla Blanc, who ordered the passports seized, said that there were discrepancies in the statements by the swimmers.
Lochte has said he was with Conger, Bentz and Jimmy Feigen when they were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with a police badge as they returned to the athletes village from a party, several hours after the final Olympic swimming events.
NBC reported Wednesday night that Lochte backed off some of his earlier claims about the robbery. He now says the taxi wasn’t pulled over by men with a badge, but that they were robbed after stopping at a gas station, NBC reported. Lochte also said the assailant pointed a gun at him rather than putting it to his head.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said police went to the athletes village to try to collect the passports, but the swim team had already moved out.
Lochte’s father told The Associated Press by phone from his Florida home that his son called him Tuesday after arriving in the United States. The 32-year-old swimmer was going to pick up his car and buy a new wallet to replace the one that he said was stolen.
“I’m just happy he’s safe,” Steve Lochte said. “It was an unfortunate experience for him and the other three. I don’t know what all the controversy is. They were basically taken out of the taxi and robbed. The main thing is he’s very lucky that he’s safe and that all they got was his cash and wallet.”
While he’s medaled often in the Olympic pool, Lochte’s accomplishments have long been overshadowed by teammate Michael Phelps — the most decorated Olympian in history. He won a gold in Rio in a relay race alongside Phelps.
The group did not call police, authorities said, and officers began investigating once they saw media reports in which Lochte’s mother spoke about the robbery.
A police official with knowledge of the investigation told the AP that police cannot find their taxi driver or witnesses from the robbery. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Police interviewed Lochte and one other swimmer, who said they had been intoxicated and could not remember what type and color of taxi they rode in or where the robbery happened, the police official said. The swimmers also could not say what time the events occurred.
Lochte’s attorney, Jeff Ostrow, has said there is no question the robbery occurred.
“Why would anybody fabricate anything?” Steve Lochte said. “It’s just ridiculous.”
Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates didn’t initially tell the U.S. Olympic officials about the robbery because “we were afraid we’d get in trouble.”
Steve Bentz, father of Gunnar Bentz, when reached by phone late Wednesday night, said: “I really don’t want to say anything,” and hung up.