RIO DE JANEIRO — Wednesday night, American swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their flight headed to the U.S. from Rio by Brazilian authorities, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The news comes hours after a Brazilian judge ordered the passports of fellow American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen be seized, in an attempt to confine them to the country as authorities investigate their claim they were robbed at gunpoint during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
All four swimmers were together in a taxi in Rio when they were allegedly pulled over and robbed at gunpoint. They were headed to the athletes village from a party very early Sunday morning, hours after finishing the last Olympic swimming events.
While Conger and Bentz were forced to stay in Brazil, Lochte’s father, Steve, told the Associated Press that his son arrived home in the United States Tuesday, before the order was issued.
It was not immediately clear if Feigen was still in Brazil, though he told the San Antonio Express-News he was still in Brazil.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said police went to the athletes village Wednesday morning to try to collect Locthe’s and Feigen’s passports, but the swim team had already moved out.
A USA Swimming spokesman and Lochte’s attorney, Jeff Ostrow, told CNN, “He left for the United States as he was planning to after he completed his events. He was not asked by the Brazilian authorities to remain in Brazil for further investigation. Had they asked, he would have stayed and assisted. They still have not reached out to ask for additional information.”
Judge Keyla Blanc De Cnop said police still needed more time to assess whether the swimmers provided false information and if they filled a false crime report, hence the hold order. The judge added that the athletes’ behavior upon arrival at the Olympic Village, which was captured in surveillance video, combined with the inconsistencies in their statements, led police to question the veracity of their claim.
“It seems the alleged victims found their physical and psychological integrity were unshaken, even fooling about with each other,” said the judge, referring to footage from security cameras in the Olympic Village.
Also, while Lochte said a single robber demanded all their money, Feigen said a number of robbers targeted them but only one was armed.
Meanwhile, police have found little evidence so far to support their accounts, and say the swimmers were unable to provide key details in police interviews.
A police official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that police cannot find their taxi driver or witnesses. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Another spokeswoman for the Civil Police told CNN that the case had attracted attention among Brazilians because the victims said their phones and watches hadn’t been taken — items that would be a prized target for thieves in crime-plagued Rio.
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. 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.
Later in the day, Lochte described the incident to NBC’s “Today” show .
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.”
Word of the robbery initially created confusion between Olympic and U.S. officials. An International Olympic Committee spokesman at first said reports of the robbery were “absolutely not true,” then reversed himself, apologized and said he was relying on initial information from the USOC that was wrong.
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.”