New details have emerged about the four U.S. swimmers' alleged vandalism of a Rio gas station
Sérgio Riera, a Brazilian lawyer who represented swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, shared a new account of Sunday night’s highly disputed events with The Washington Post. Riera said two of the swimmers urinated at the back of the gas station and that Lochte punched and damaged an advertisement in a metal frame.
Brazilian authorities claimed the four men vandalized the gas station bathroom, but Today visited the station and couldn’t find any signs of damage. According to Riera, the men never entered the bathroom.
By Riera’s account, the four swimmers stopped at a Shell gas station in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca suburb on their way home from a night out because they wanted to use the bathroom. Finding that there was no available bathroom (the bathroom was reported to have been locked), two of the men urinated at the back of the station. Lochte punched an advertisement in a metal frame, which fell noisily to the ground and attracted the attention of gas station staff.
Two security guards with pistols in their belts stopped the swimmers and one of the guards showed a police badge, which Riera said may have been false.
“Then Ryan began to argue, said, ‘I did nothing wrong,’ and they made them sit on the ground with the firearm pointing to them,” Riera said. “And a customer appeared who spoke English because the security did not speak English.”
“Imagine what the conversation must have been like,” he continued. “A firearm, one talking Portuguese, the others talking English, totally frenetic, drunk and they came to an agreement to pay the damage. They gave a $20 note and 100 reals, and got another taxi and went away.”
He added that the Bentz, 20, and Conger, 21, knew Lochte had lied about the robbery to NBC, but did not come forward about the lie as they did not anticipate the story would turn into a matter of international concern.
“They knew it was a lie. But they did not have to go public,” Riera said. “They thought this would be forgotten. They did not think it would have a more serious consequence.”
Riera said that neither Conger nor Bentz knew they were being sought by authorities until they were pulled from their flight out of Rio on Wednesday night and detained for questioning.
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Speaking from Rio’s international airport after Conner and Bentz had gone through security for departing a flight to Miami Thursday, Riera said the athletes had not lied to the police about what really happened.
“They did not lie. They did not talk to the press, not one lie and not one truth,” Riera said. “They simply did not talk to the press.”
Lochte had returned to the U.S. before authorities said they were seeking him for more questioning.
The fourth swimmer, James Feigen, 26, remained in Brazil throughout the week as authorities had confiscated his passport, the U.S. Olympic Committee said. Early Friday, Feigen’s lawyer said that the athlete had reached a deal with Brazilian authorities that would allow him to return home. Feigen will donate roughly $10,800 to an unnamed institution and then depart Brazil.
In a statement on Friday, USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said: “The last five days have been difficult for our USA Swimming and United States Olympic families. While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgement and conduct that led us to this point. It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals.
“That this is drawing attention away from Team USA’s incredible accomplishments in the water and by other athletes across the Olympic Games is upsetting. The athletes and their remarkable stories should be the focus.
“We’re extremely thankful of the support and efforts from the USOC, Department of State and U.S. Consulate General throughout this process. USA Swimming will undergo a thorough review of the incident and determine any further actions, per our Code of Conduct.”
“I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend – for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning,” the apology began.
“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country – with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry,” he explained.
Michael Phelps also spoke out about the incident on Friday. According to E! News, when paparazzi outside a Scottsdale, Arizona, Starbucks asked whether or not he believes Lochte will emerge from the controversy unscathed, he responded: “We have good people taking care of it, so hopefully.”