The United States Olympic Committee apologized Thursday night to its Olympic hosts and the people of Brazil for the “distracting ordeal” caused by four of its swimmers, who made up a lie about being robbed at gunpoint while in Rio.
Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive officer, said in a statement late Thursday that the swimmers “committed an act of vandalism” in a gas station restroom. The lie about a robbery that involved a stopped taxicab and assailants posing as police officers – told publicly by swimmer Ryan Lochte to an NBC reporter on Sunday – began what eventually blossomed into an international incident.
Blackmun’s statement largely dovetailed with the details given by a Brazilian police chief at a press conference earlier in the day. Blackmun also said that the two U.S. swimmers who recanted the original story when speaking to the police Thursday – Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger – had now gotten back their passports and left Rio.
The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members.
USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun
Said Blackmun in the statement: “As we understand it, the four athletes (Gunnar Bentz, Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte) left France House early in the morning of August 14 in a taxi headed to the Olympic Village. They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where one of the athletes committed an act of vandalism. An argument ensued between the athletes 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. Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave.”
Blackmun said that potential punishments for the swimmers would be determined in the U.S.
“The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members,” Blackmun said. “We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.”
Only Feigen – who like Lochte a member of SwimMAC Carolina in Charlotte this past year – remains in Brazil.
Lochte, who announced his intention to move away from Charlotte less than 48 hours before the incident, returned to the U.S. earlier in the week. Blackmun said Feigen had given a statement earlier in the week, but was revising it Thursday evening in the hopes of being allowed to go home soon.
“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence,” Blackmun said.
Chuck Wielgus, the USA Swimming Executive Director, also issued a statement Thursday night saying in part: “While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgement and conduct that led us to this point.” Wielgus said a thorough review of the incident would be conducted before any punishments for the swimmers were determined.