U.S. Olympic Committee Apologizes to Brazil For Swimmers' Behavior During Alleged Robbery, Promising 'Potential Consequences'
"We apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal," says USOC CEO Scott Blackmun
Ever since swimmer Ryan Lochte alleged that he’d been robbed at gunpoint in Rio during the Summer Olympic Games, the United States Olympic Committee has been monitoring the situation – but not choosing a side in the dueling accounts of what really happened that night.
In a conciliatory statement obtained by PEOPLE, the USOC took the unprecedented step of apologizing to the entire country of Brazil for the alleged actions of Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen.
Lochte has said the foursome was robbed at gunpoint early Sunday, during a taxi ride back to the Olympic village. But the new statement – issued by USOC CEO Scott Blackmun – seems to corroborate what Brazilian authorities said their investigation revealed about the robbery claim, including that there was actually an altercation between the swimmers and gas station security.
Blackmun promises to review the matter for “potential consequences” to the athletes.
Brazilian police have recommended criminal charges of falsely reporting a crime for Feigen and Lochte, after they both gave police interviews about the incident.
Lochte, who returned to America earlier this week, has not yet publicly discussed the ensuing controversy, except when he reaffirmed his story in an interview with NBC. His laywer declined to comment to PEOPLE, but told ABC News in a statement that “a gun was pointed at the swimmers and they were forced to get out of their cab and give up their money.
“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.”
Below is the USOC statement in its entirety:
Two U.S. Olympic swimmers (Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger) have given statements to local authorities today regarding the incident first reported on Sunday, August 14, 2016. Their passports have been released and they recently departed Rio.
After providing a statement earlier in the week, a third (James Feigen) provided a revised statement this evening with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible.
Working in collaboration with the U.S. Consulate in Rio, we have coordinated the athletes’ cooperation with local authorities and ensured their safety throughout the process, but we have not seen the full statements provided by Bentz and Conger.
However, we understand that they describe the events that many have seen on surveillance video made publicly available today. 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.
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.
With three days remaining in the Olympic Games, our primary focus will remain on supporting the athletes who are still competing and celebrating the achievements of those who have finished.