Bentz disputes Lochte's account

Heated exchange with security guard, but no weapon drawn, says US swimmer

RIO DE JANEIRO • Gunnar Bentz, one of the four American swimmers involved in the Ryan Lochte "robbery" case, has given his side of the story in a lengthy statement published on Friday after he returned to the United States.

The 20-year-old's account paints Lochte as the aggressor in the situation that unfolded around 6am last Sunday after the four swimmers stopped at a petrol station to use the restroom following a party.

He said that Lochte "pulled to the ground a framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall" and claimed "Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange" but said no guns were pulled.

Lochte had said that he, Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen were robbed by men claiming to be police officers and that guns had been pointed at them, including a cocked gun being held to his forehead.

Rio police struggled to find evidence that supported Lochte's claims and produced video footage that suggested the swimmers had got into an argument at the petrol station and that one of the swimmers had vandalised a toilet door.

AT ODDS WITH LOCHTE'S VERSION

After Jack (Conger) and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made.

GUNNAR BENTZ, one of the swimmers involved in the incident.

Bentz, while offering a "sincere apology to the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming, the extraordinary women and men of Team USA," also said that, after Lochte pulled down the advertisement, he "suggested to everyone that we needed to leave the area and we returned to the taxi".

But the four swimmers were stopped by two men, whom Bentz believes were security guards.

"No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guards' waistband," he said.

At that point, Conger and Feigen began to walk away from the taxi and the guard pulled out his gun and held up a badge. The second guard then pulled his gun and told them to sit down on the sidewalk.

"Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards," said Bentz. "After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made."

Soon after, according to Bentz, a customer who could speak both English and Portuguese intervened and the swimmers were allowed to leave after they paid the security guards US$20 (S$26) and 100 Brazilian reais (S$42) for the damage.

Bentz maintained that he never made a false statement about the incident and was only considered a witness by the Rio police.

"Videos of this situation have been emerging the last several days. However, I am confident that some video angles have not been shown that would further substantiate my account," he said in the statement, which was released by the University of Georgia, where he is a student. "I also believe some scenes have been skipped over.

"Additionally, I would like to stress that our original taxi was not pulled over; the only occupants of the taxi were the four of us and the driver; and to my knowledge, there was no damage done to the door or the inside of the restroom."

Lochte on Friday apologised for "not being more careful and candid" in describing the alleged robbery.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'Bentz disputes Lochte's account'. Print Edition | Subscribe