US Olympic swimmer James Feigen apologises for Rio scandal

 James Feigen in a 2013 file photo.
James Feigen in a 2013 file photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - US swimmer James Feigen apologised on Wednesday (Aug 24) for his actions with three other gold medalists in a controversial incident during the Rio Olympics.

"First and foremost I would like to apologise for the serious distractions from the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, and Team USA," Feigen said in a statement.

"I want to thank the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the people of Rio de Janeiro for their hospitality in hosting these games," he said.

"I have nothing but respect for the city."

Feigen recounted what had happened in events that began on Aug 14, when he and Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Ryan Lochte stopped at a gasoline station after leaving a party in the wee hours of the morning.

Lochte, who has since taken full responsibility for giving a false account of how they had been robbed at gunpoint, has lost sponsorship deals from companies such as swimwear maker Speedo over the scandal.

Feigen said that the swimmers had left the party at about 5am in a taxi to go back to the Olympic Village, and had asked the driver "to pull over so we could relieve ourselves."

The driver stopped at a gas station but the bathroom door was locked, the 26-year-old swimmer said.

"We did not force entry into the bathroom, nor did we ever enter the bathroom. We did, however, make the regrettable decision to urinate in the grass behind the building," Feigen said.

"On our way back to the cab, Ryan Lochte pulled a poster in a metal frame off a wall," he said.

A man with a gun spoke with the cab driver and the athletes paid the driver and got out of the car.

"As I walked away, the man with the gun pointed it at me and my teammate and ordered us, in Portuguese, to sit," he said.

"This was the first time I have ever had a gun pointed at me and I was terrified.

"I put my hands up and sat down on the curb. It became apparent that the man with the gun was telling us to pay, and I was unsure if they were affiliated with the gas station."

Feigen said that he and Bentz gave the man some money and then were allowed to leave.

Later that day, a Rio police detective came to the USA House to take a statement and since he was the only person available, Feigen said, he was told by a US Olympic Committee official to provide a statement.

"In this statement, I omitted the facts that we urinated behind the building and that Ryan Lochte pulled a poster off the wall," he said. "I was trying to protect my teammates."

Feigen said that later his US passport was confiscated by Brazilian authorities.

A Brazilian court gave him two options: one to remain in Brazil while the police continued the investigation, estimated to take at least a month.

The second option was to pay a fine of US$31,250 for the return of his passport and perform 15 days of community service. He rejected both offers.

In the end, he said, all parties agreed to a US$10,800 fine, which was paid promptly.

"I am very thankful to be home in the United States with my family and that this ordeal has come to an end," he said.