'I Accept Responsibility': Ryan Lochte Apologizes for Robbery Claim as He Says He Was Traumatized by Gun-Wielding Security Guard
The swimmer issued a statement on Friday
Lochte originally said the four swimmers were robbed at gunpoint during a taxi ride back to the Olympic Village last Sunday. His account was disputed by Brazilian authorities who said their investigation revealed that an altercation had occurred between the swimmers and security guard at a gas station. A conciliatory statement from the USOC obtained by PEOPLE on Thursday and CCTV footage seemed to corroborate the Brazilian investigation.
According to Brazilian authorities, the swimmers were stopped by security after they allegedly vandalized a bathroom. When the security guard reportedly asked the men to pay for the damages, the swimmers allegedly resisted, leading to the security guard to draw his gun and demand payment. It’s unclear what damage the swimmers caused as there were no visible signs of damage on Friday.
Read Lochte’s apology in full, below:
“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 and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics. I waited to share these thoughts until it was confirmed that the legal situation was addressed and it was clear that my teammates would be arriving home safely.
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 to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event. I am very proud to represent my country in Olympic competition and this was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.
I am grateful for my USA Swimming teammates and the USOC, and appreciate all of the efforts of the IOC, the Rio ’16 Host Committee, and the people of Brazil who welcomed us to Rio and worked so hard to make sure that these Olympic Games provided a lifetime of great new memories. There has already been too much said and too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so I hope we spend our time celebrating the great stories and performances of these Games and look ahead to celebrating future successes.”
The robbery claim was made public last week, but quickly came under scrutiny from Brazilian police who later said that Lochte fabricated his story – and that the “robbery” was actually a payment exchange for the swimmers’ alleged vandalism at a Rio gas station.
The USOC statement issued by CEO Scott Blackmun on Thursday claimed that an act of vandalism did occur on the evening of the incident.
“As we understand it, the four athletes (Bentz, Conger, Feigen and Ryan Lochte) left France House early in the morning of August 14 in a taxi headed to the Olympic Village. They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where one of the athletes committed an act of vandalism. An argument ensued between the athletes and two armed gas station security staff, who displayed their weapons, ordered the athletes from their vehicle and demanded the athletes provide a monetary payment. Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave,” said the statement.”
“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. We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.”
“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.”
A USOC source tells PEOPLE that the organization isn’t going to let the incident drop.
“The thinking is that no amount of gold medals is worth this,” the sources tells PEOPLE. “They totally took over the entire Olympics with foolishness. Do you know anyone who won a medal yesterday? No, you don’t. All you know is that Ryan peed outside a gas station and then told a story about being robbed to Billy Bush. It’s disrespectful to the USOC and every other athlete that trained for years to get to this moment.”
Lochte was able to depart from Rio following the incident, but Bentz and Conger were pulled off their return flight for questioning. The two arrived back on U.S. soil in the early hours of Friday morning.
Feigen remains in Brazil as authorities have confiscated his passport, according to the USOC. On Friday it was reported that he reached an agreement with Brazilian authorities which would allow him to return home.
• With reporting by Steve Helling