US apology on 'robbery' claim

A poster at the Olympic Stadium in Rio superimposing the head of US swimmer Ryan Lochte on the body of actor Jim Carrey, in a mock-up based on publicity material from the 1997 film Liar Liar, about a lawyer who is prevented from lying for 24 hours.
A poster at the Olympic Stadium in Rio superimposing the head of US swimmer Ryan Lochte on the body of actor Jim Carrey, in a mock-up based on publicity material from the 1997 film Liar Liar, about a lawyer who is prevented from lying for 24 hours.PHOTO: REUTERS

Lochte also contrite after CCTV footage released reveals that his version of events is untrue

RIO DE JANEIRO • As Brazilian police presented strong evidence contradicting US swim star Ryan Lochte's allegations that he had been robbed at gunpoint, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) apologised for the behaviour of four of its athletes, including Lochte.

The swimmer himself apologised yesterday, saying: "I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself, and for that am sorry to my team-mates. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learnt some valuable lessons."

The USOC announced late on Thursday that Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger had provided statements to Brazilian police and that their passports were returned. Both returned to the US yesterday.

The pair had been pulled off a flight home the previous night as local authorities tried to unravel what actually happened early on Aug 14 when Lochte reported that he, Bentz, Conger and James Feigen were robbed at a petrol station by men claiming to be police officers.

A USOC statement appeared to agree with assertions by Rio police that Lochte's version of events is false.

It said: "They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where one of the athletes committed an act of vandalism. An argument ensued 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."

Fernando Veloso, Rio's civil police chief, said earlier: "We saw our city stained by a fantastical version."

A new security video showed the US athletes at the petrol station, where the manager said they broke down a door and relieved themselves in public.

"They stopped next to the gas pump and peed on everything," the manager told O'Globo.

Veloso, who confirmed that a guard pulled a gun to "constrain" and "restrain" the athletes, said the Americans smashed mirrors and damaged other items.

The swimmers paid for the vandalism with an American $20 (S$26.90) note and a 100 Brazilian real note, worth about S$41.

However, sources close to Lochte continued to insist that he and his team-mates were shaken down for "hundreds and hundreds of dollars" by security guards who held guns "in their faces".

They claimed the minute-long surveillance video was edited, as it jumps from 6.09am to 6.12 am.

Brazilian federal police recommended Lochte and Feigen face charges of falsely reporting a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail, while ABC News reported that Feigen agreed to pay US$11,000 to a local charity to avoid formal charges.

Lochte is unlikely to be handed over for prosecution because the US-Brazil extradition treaty covers only serious felonies. But Brazil could get Interpol to issue a "red notice" that might lead to the swimmer's arrest if he travels outside the US.

Mario Andrada, Rio 2016 spokesman, defended the US swimmers, saying: "Let's give these kids a break... They had fun..." Twitter users, though, highlighted how that stance reeks of white privilege. Some pointed out how US gymnast Gabby Douglas, a black, was slammed on social media for her perceived lack of enthusiasm and even patriotism while Lochte and his fellow-vandals are just having "fun".

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'US apology on 'robbery' claim'. Print Edition | Subscribe