Olympics: US swimmer Lochte says he challenged armed robbers in Rio

US swimmer Ryan Lochte biting his medal while posing on the podium following the 4x200m freestyle relay in Rio de Janeiro, on Aug 9, 2016.
US swimmer Ryan Lochte biting his medal while posing on the podium following the 4x200m freestyle relay in Rio de Janeiro, on Aug 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

(REUTERS) - Ryan Lochte initially resisted a group of armed men posing as police, who robbed the Olympic gold medallist and three fellow American swimmers in Rio de Janeiro, he said in an interview broadcast on Monday on the "Today" show.

The robbery of Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen early on Sunday, as they returned in a taxi to their hotels in Brazil after a night of partying, has fed concern over safety at the first Olympic Games in South America.

"We got pulled over in our taxi and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge," 32-year-old Lochte said in his first interview about the crime.

"They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground, they got down on the ground."

But Lochte, among the most successful male swimmers in Olympic history, said he initially refused.

"I was like, we didn't do anything wrong, so I'm not getting down on the ground," he said in the interview conducted at a Rio beach.

"And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead." At that point, Lochte said he complied.

"I put my hands up, and was like, 'Whatever'." The gunmen stole their cash and wallets, he said. They let the swimmers keep their cellphones and credentials.

Lochte released a statement on Sunday, in which he said: "What is most important is that we are safe and unharmed."

 

Witnesses said the four swimmers left a club hosting a French Games delegation party early on Sunday, bought popcorn from a street vendor and then got into a taxi cab, Today reported.

Rio police have said they plan to interview the swimmers as part of their investigation into the robbery.

Lochte has won a total of 12 Olympic medals, six of which are gold, behind team-mate Michael Phelps' 28 medals, 23 of them gold.