U.S. Swimmer Gunnar Bentz Shares His Side of the Robbery Controversy
Bentz gives his account of what happened the night the athletes were allegedly robbed.
U.S. Olympic swimmer Gunnar Bentz, 20, has released a statement through the University of Georgia regarding the Rio robbery controversy involving Bentz and fellow team members Jack Conger, James Feigen and Ryan Lochte.
In the statement Bentz offers his “sincere apology,” as he explains that he “regret[s] this situation has drawn away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens.”
The University of Georgia swimmer continues, adding that he feels “compelled to stress several key points,” including:
“1. I was never a suspect in the case from the beginning (Brazilian law enforcement officials saw me only as a witness). 2. I never made a false statement to anyone at any time,” Bentz said. “I also want to be forthright about the details of what transpired last Sunday. What follows is consistent with the account I gave to the Brazilian authorities when I was interviewed for the first and only time on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.”
Bentz explains that the night the swimmers were stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where they “foolishly relieved [themselves] on the backside of the building behind some bushes,” as there was no bathroom at the gas station’s convenience store.
He adds that, although he’s unsure why, he watched Lochte pull a “framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall,” to the floor, which is when Bentz suggested everyone head back to the taxi.
Although Bentz admits that Lochte removed the advertisement, he denies that there was any bathroom vandalism – as he says there was no bathroom – although police in Brazil were adamant about that fact.
Back at the cab, Bentz says the swimmers were asked to get out of the car by two men who they believed were security guards. Although weapons were not initially pulled on the athletes, when Feigen and Conger turned away from the guards, they drew their guns and Bentz called them back.
According to Bentz, a “heated verbal exchange” ensued, but no one was physically attacked. Eventually, a man fluent in English and Portuguese offered to help, and relayed to the group that the men with guns “said that [they] needed to pay them in order to leave.” Bentz says he offered $20, while Feigen offered the American equivalent of $50 and they were released.
Despite there being video footage of the incident, Bentz says that he doesn’t believe the angles of the camera show exactly what happened as he saw it that night, as “some scenes have been skipped over.”
“I am so thankful for the love and support of my family, my friends and my teammates during this time,” Bentz concludes. “Without question, I am taking away a valuable life lesson from this situation. In everything I do, I am representing my family, my country and my school. I will not take that responsibility lightly.”
Bentz and Conger were pulled off a flight from Rio to the U.S. earlier this week, when police said they wanted to further question the pair about Lochte’s claims that the group was robbed.
After being questioned by Brazilian authorities, they were released on Thursday night and arrived in Miami early Friday morning.
Feigen reportedly agreed to pay nearly $11,000 to a local institute on Friday in order to retrieve his passport and return to the U.S. Although Lochte was at the center of the controversy and charges were recommended against him, he had already returned to the U.S. before authorities decided to question the group, skirting detainment.
In a statement to ABC News, Lochte’s lawyer maintained that the group was robbed, regardless of what Brazilian officials had said.
“A gun was pointed at the swimmers and they were forced to get out of their cab and give up their money,” Jeff Ostrow said. “No matter what happened at that gas station, the swimmers were robbed by people with a gun appearing to be law enforcement. No matter what country you are in that is robbery and robbery is a serious crime.”