Wednesday, December 6, 2023

#LochteGate: What We Know So Far About The Hottest, Messiest Olympic Scandal Ever [Updates]

Arguably the greatest scandal in Olympics history keeps getting better. ABC News is now reporting that one of the American swimmers who claimed to have been robbed at a gas station early Sunday morning in Rio  “was seen on CCTV footage breaking down the door to the bathroom at the gas station and fighting with a security guard,” according to a Brazilian police source who spoke with the channel.

The story, if you haven’t been paying attention, broke Sunday, after Ryan Lochte’s mother told reporters that her son had been robbed. The IOC initially denied the story, only to have Lochte and the other U.S. swimmers—-Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, and James Feigen—later confirm it. In an interview with NBC’s Billy Bush, Lochte described the harrowing details of the alleged hold-up, which he said took place after the four left a party at France’s hospitality venue at about 4 am.

“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 cell phone, he left my credentials.”

Scary stuff—except it might not be true. Brazilian authorities have since raised legitimate questions about whether the robbery actually happened, using surveillance footage of the apparently non-plussed swimmers returning to the Olympic Village at a time later than they initially claimed and a lack of evidence—the taxi driver, for instance, has not been found—to substantiate their suspicions.

On Wednesday, a Brazilian judge ordered that police seize the passports of Lochte and Feigen so they would remain in country for questioning. Lochte, in a rare moment of wisdom, had already returned to the U.S., but Conger, Bentz, and Feigen remain in Brazil. Last night, Conger and Bentz were removed from a U.S.-bound plane in Rio, and taken to a police station.

Conger and Bentz spent four hours in a police station at the airport, but weren’t interviewed according to USA Today. Feigen’s exact whereabouts remain unknown, but he told USA Today he’ll cooperate with Brazilian authorities.

“I’m just trying to give Brazil what they need or what they want and get out of here,” he said. “It’s a hassle. But I’m safe, everything’s fine.”

In the meantime, Lochte’s story has changed (for the second time). In an interview Wednesday night with Matt Lauer, the gold medalist “softened” or “stepped back” key parts of the robbery. From NBC News:

Lochte initially said the robbers, posing as police, pulled the taxi over, but he told Lauer that the taxi had stopped at a gas station so the swimmers could use the bathroom. When they returned to the taxi and asked the driver to leave, Lochte said, the driver didn’t respond, and the swimmers were subsequently accosted.

Lochte also told Lauer that the gun was “pointed in my direction,” which differs from his original characterization of the gun being put to his head.

And now the ABC News report about one of the swimmers fighting with a security guard at the gas station has been followed by a Reuters report that the swimmers paid for damages at the station in cash.

What’s next? Who knows. But we do know that Ryan Lochte is taking the situation very seriously.

As is the IOC.

We will update this post if there are any other strange or important developments — and we’re guessing there will be!

UPDATE: Lochte et al. reportedly peed all over the gas station after being told to use the bathroom, according to a report from O Globo. From Deadspin:

The report, written in Portuguese, says that the group of swimmers were asked to use the bathroom at the gas station, but instead allegedly pissed on the wall. There’s a mention of an image of one of their butts, though it isn’t clear if that’s a mental image from one of the attendants, or a literal image…One of them allegedly tore down an “advertising board,” too.

NBC also has a more comprehensive list of the alleged actions by the swimmers:

UPDATE 2: Lochte reportedly made up the entire story. From ESPN:

A Brazilian police official has told The Associated Press that American swimmer Ryan Lochte fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro.

The official said Lochte’s teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, who were pulled off a plane going back to the United States late Wednesday, told police that the robbery story had been fabricated.

ABC News has video of the swimmers at the gas station. There’s no evidence of a robbery, and one swimmer appears at the end to be making a payment to someone off camera.

UPDATE 3: ABC News reports that Lochte and Feigen have been indicted on charges of false reporting of a crime. If convicted, both reportedly face up to six months in jail, or a fine.

UPDATE 4: Bentz and Conger left Rio Thursday night and arrived arrived in Miami early Friday morning. Their lawyer,Sergio Riera, told ESPN that they “were heard only as witnesses. This has to be made very, very clear.”

“They did not make any untruthful testimony,” Riera said. “They did not lie in their statements.”

Meanwhile, James Feigen has agreed to donate 35,000 Brazilian reals ($10,800) to an “institution,” according to his lawyer. In exchange, his passport will be returned, and he’ll be allowed to leave the country.

Neither Lochte nor his attorney have commented on the Brazilian police’s allegations, but the swimmer did hire a top crisis publicist Thursday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

U.S. Swimming has also issued an apology. From the New York Times:

“The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members,” said the statement, which was attributed to the organization’s chief executive, Scott Blackmun.

“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence.”

UPDATE 5: And now Lochte has apologized:



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