Two U.S. Olympic Swimmers Detained Leaving Rio and Questioned About Alleged Robbery with James Feigen, Ryan Lochte
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were detained after boarding a flight from Rio Wednesday night,
Two U.S. swimmers were pulled from their flight out of Rio and detained for police questioning, in connection with a controversial claim that they and teammates James Feigen and Ryan Lochte were robbed at gunpoint during the Olympic Games, PEOPLE has confirmed.
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were detained, but later released, after boarding their Wednesday night flight. According to Yahoo Sports, they had cleared customs before being detained.
Patrick Sandusky, United States Olympic Committee spokesman said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE: “Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were detained Wednesday night shortly before their flight was scheduled to depart from Rio. They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday.”
The statement added that: “James Feigen is also communicating with local authorities and intends to make further statements regarding the incident on Thursday as well. We will continue to provide updated information as it is appropriate.”
According to local reports, Bentz and Conger were wanted for questioning after police said they suspect the robbery report could be false – an allegation that pits the reputation of Brazil, which has been scrutinized for its Olympic preparations, against the reputations of Lochte and his teammates.
(None have been charged with a crime.)
Bentz and Conger were transported to a nearby police station after being detained, but it was not immediately clear if they had representation. The State Department told NBC News in a statement that they were aware of the situation and stood “ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
A Rio police source told PEOPLE: “We just want to find out what happened, and then they will be able to take an airplane home. They are being questioned but are not under arrest.”
Bentz’s father declined to comment to PEOPLE.
“I don’t know that they knew how serious this was, and that they were about to start an international incident,” a member of Team U.S.A. tells PEOPLE. “The feeling was that this was Ryan’s issue, because he was the one who had talked to police the most, but this is a big deal for all of them.
“Right now, we don’t know what’s going on, but this is serious. They’re in Brazilian custody right now, and that’s something that we have no control over.”
Lochte, whose version of events has been the most public, has said the foursome were robbed early Sunday as they returned to the Olympic village in a taxi. Lochte and Fiegen later gave interviews to police.
But police said they have not been able to find the group’s taxi driver that night or any witnesses and, according to Brazilian officials, the details Feigen and Lochte gave were too scant to verify and at times contradictory.
João Silva Oliveira of the Municipal Guard previously told PEOPLE that the swimmers weren’t able to tell police what the taxi looked like and had conflicting answers about how many men with guns were involved in the incident.
“What they said to us, it did not make sense. We cannot investigate a crime if we don’t know what happened and what they told us is not correct,” Silva Oliverira said. “We want to know why they were in the area where they were robbed and what happened. They did not tell us until later.”
“We believe that more information will come out that might make everyone look at what happened in a different light,” he continued. “We need to talk to them again to make sure that what they tell us is right. We have a lot more questions.”
As police sought to question Lochte further, a judge ordered his passport seized, which would have prevented him leaving the country, though he had already headed back to America before the order was issued.
He is unwavering in his story, a source tells PEOPLE. He has relied on his girlfriend for guidance but has not yet seen his family since returning home, the source says.
Feigen’s passport was also ordered seized. He is still in Brazil, according to NBC.
“I’m just trying to give Brazil what they need or what they want and get out of here,” Feigen told USA Today. “It’s a hassle. But I’m safe, everything’s fine.”
Speaking to NBC’s Matt Lauer after returning home, Lochte strongly denied that their robbery claim was a cover-up for some other incident, and said that the four were victims. He said his interactions with police were casual and friendly, and that police never questioned his truthfulness.
“I wouldn’t make up a story like this nor would the others – as a matter of fact, we all feel it makes us look bad,” Lauer said, quoting Lochte, according to NBC News. “We’re victims in this and we’re happy that we’re safe.”
Lauer said Wednesday night that Lochte’s version of the robbery to him was mostly unchanged from earlier accounts, though Lochte did walk back an earlier anecdote that one of the robbers put a gun to his forehead.
Instead, Lochte told Lauer, the gun was pointed in his direction.
Lauer said Lochte changed another detail in his recounting – saying that the group was robbed after leaving a gas station during their taxi ride home and not, as he said earlier, after their taxi was pulled over by men masquerading as police.
Lochte’s attorney, Jeff Ostrow, told the Associated Press, “It doesn’t behoove Ryan and anyone else to make up a story.”
“The country has a dark cloud over it for a million and one reasons, from their economy to their crime to their management of the Olympics,” Ostrow told the New York Times. “My client has cooperated thoroughly with the Brazilian authorities and stands behind his statement.”
• Reporting by STEVE HELLING and ROSE MINUTAGLIO