U.S. swimmers let down Olympic team during Rio incident – Official
The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee said on Sunday (August 21) that four U.S. swimmers let down their fellow athletes and the people of Rio when they lied about an armed robbery, adding that the final consequences for the swimmers will be decided on once the team has returned to the U.S.
“I think that we all understand that they let down our athletes, that they let down Americans, and they really let down our hosts in Rio who did such a wonderful job and we feel very badly about that.” aid USOC CEO, Scott Blackmun at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think we’ve ended up in the right place in terms of being able to shine a light on what really happened there and we are going to have further action on this when we get back to the United States, so I don’t want to say anything about the specifics of the case but I think we all understand what happened at this point and understand that the things that were said about the people of Rio just weren’t true.”
U.S. Olympic gold medallist swimmer Ryan Lochte issued an apology on Friday (August 19) and his team mate Jimmy Feigen agreed to pay 35,000 reais ($11,000) to a charity after Brazilian police said they lied about being robbed at gunpoint at the weekend.
Lochte, who flew to the United States the day after Sunday’s incident, said he should have been more careful and candid in his account, but added that it had been traumatic to have a stranger point a gun at him in a foreign country and demand money.
The 32-year-old, one of America’s most decorated swimmers and the most outspoken about the incident, had originally said he and three team mates, including Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were stopped in a taxi on the way back from a party by gunmen posing as police who stole $400 from them.
However police called this a lie, and Rio’s mayor said on Friday he had “pity and contempt” for the swimmers.
Police said one of the swimmers had vandalised a gas station after the group stopped their taxi there to use a bathroom. The swimmers started an argument with staff at the station, who demanded payment for the damage, they added.
After security video emerged of the incident, the U.S. Olympic Committee admitted an act of vandalism had taken place and apologised for the incident, which had embarrassed the host city, angered the police and government, and dominated news coverage of South America’s first Olympics.
Asked about whether Lochte and his team mates could be banned for life from competing for the United States, Blackmun said:
“The question of what the consequences are for the behaviour is one that our administrative board is going to take a look at shortly after we get back. I don’t want to speculate on what those consequences might be. I think all four of those young men have clarified what happened and apologise but we will take a look at the consequences when we get back.”
Blackmun denied that USOC had attempted to help the swimmers flee the country after the incident. Police had pulled Bentz and Conger off a flight on Wednesday (August 17) night for further questioning.
“We tried to support the young men in their efforts to get out of the country. I don’t think it’s accurate to characterise it as fleeing. I think the police had asked for an opportunity to talk to two of the young men. One of them had already left and one fully co-operated so the two that stayed it was their own decision and we tried to support them obviously with transportation and security and conversations with various council that they were receiving locally to try to get them through this,” he said.
Bentz and Conger arrived in Miami on Friday aboard an American Airlines flight from Brazil, having sat in curtained-off seats for much of the journey.
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