In a sport where reputations are made in split seconds, lost hours have thrown a blanket of intrigue over the standing of four top U.S. swimmers.
Most at risk is Ryan Lochte, a 12-time medalist.
Here is what we know about what happened when four Olympians dove into a night of drunken revelry in Rio:
Reason to celebrate
First, the swimming:
Three of the four – Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Ryan Lochte – participated in the men’s 800 freestyle relay; Jimmy Feigen was on the 400 freestyle relay. By Thursday, their races were through.
All had won gold.
11:30 p.m. Saturday – Party at Club France
On Saturday night, Lochte, 32, and his younger teammates traveled to the French Olympic team’s party at Club France.
A club spokesman confirmed in published reports that the swimmers had attended the party, which began at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
The party featured electronic house music, he said, and the group had attended to celebrate another swimmer’s birthday.
11:30 p.m. - 3:00 a.m.
The club, along the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, drew 2,500 to the DJ’d dance, according to The Washington Post.
Lochte posted several pictures to Snapchat from the party, including one reportedly dated at 2:25 a.m.
Published reports quote the spokesman saying the swimmers left the party between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m.
3 a.m. - Lost hours begin
Lochte and Feigen reportedly would initially tell Brazilian investigators they left Club France around 4 a.m., according to news reports.
Adding to the confusion, a Rio newspaper reported that cameras showed the swimmers leaving the club at 5:50 a.m.
Lochte’s initial account
Lochte on Sunday initially gave this account of a mugging to NBC:
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground – they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so – I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet – he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
Lochte’s second account:
NBC’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday said he interviewed Lochte, who revised his account:
“He didn’t say he was pulled over by these people pretending to be police. They had gone to the bathroom in a gas station. They got back to the taxi and when they told the taxi driver to ‘go,’ he didn’t move. They said ‘let’s go again, we have got to get out of here’ and again the taxi driver didn’t move. And that is when he says two men approached the car with guns and badges and told them to get out and get on the ground...
“Now when he talked to Billy Bush on Sunday, he said that is when the guy took the gun, put it to his forehead and cocked it. When he talked to me tonight, he said, ‘That is when the guy pointed the gun in my direction and cocked it.’ And I pointedly said to him, ‘You had said before it was placed on your forehead and cocked.’ He said, ‘No, that is not exactly what happened.’ ”
A Brazilian police official on Thursday gave a different account, saying that Lochte lied, the Associated Press reported:
“The official said that around 6 a.m. on Sunday, Lochte, along with fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen, stopped at a gas station in Barra da Tijuca, a suburb of Rio where many Olympic venues are located. One of the swimmers tried to open the door of an outside bathroom. It was locked.
“The official says a few of the swimmers then pushed on the door and broke it. A security guard appeared and confronted them.
“The official says the guard was armed with a pistol, but he never took it out or pointed it at the swimmers.
“According to the official, the gas station manager then arrived. Using a customer to translate, the manager asked the swimmers to pay for the broken door. The official says after a discussion, they did pay him an unknown amount of money and left.”
6:56 a.m. - Lost hours end
Security footage from the athlete’s village reportedly shows the swimmers arriving at 6:56 a.m.
Court order Wednesday
Judge Keyla Blanc De Cnop issued a surprise order around midday Wednesday to search for and seize Lochte and Feigen’s passports in order to prevent them from leaving Brazil. She publicly questioned their allegations that they were robbed after a party and too drunk to remember much about their cab or cabbie.
But Lochte had already returned Tuesday to the United States, possibly to his home in Charlotte.
Conger and Bentz were removed from a flight to the United States Wednesday night by federal police. Feigen remained in Brazil.
Left unknown: the truth.
And its toll on Lochte’s legacy.