The Brazilian government chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, announced today, in Rio de Janeiro, that the American swimmers who admitted having lied in the case of an alleged assault during the Olympic Games in Rio, will be indicted for criminal action.
Padilha stated that the episode would not affect the country’s image abroad. According to the minister, Brazil’s Federal Police and the Ministry of Justice informed all the media, including the international one, what in fact occurred.
“The Federal Police and the Ministry of Justice clarified the episode,” he said.
For minister of Tourism, Alberto Alves, the best that could happen now would be for the newspapers that reported the robbery to publish a “we made a mistake” note, a practice in the Brazilian mainstream media when they publish something incorrect.
The Rio de Janeiro Civil Police confirmed that four American swimmers lied about being robbed at a gunpoint at a gas station on Americas Avenue, in Barra da Tijuca, on Sunday, August 14.
The first story of the robbery case was told by swimmer Ryan Lochte to a US newspaper in the US. According to the report, he and his fellow swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and James Feigen left a party at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, in the south zone.
After that, they would have been robbed by armed individuals posing as police officers. This Thursday, August 18, Conger, Bentz and Feigen gave a testimony, changed their story, and admitted Lochte’s account was false. Lochte traveled back to the United States on Monday, August 15.
The swimmers who testified should be released to travel back to the US, according to Fernando Veloso, the head of Rio’s civil police. Bentz and Conger were removed by Brazilian authorities from their flight on August 17, before it departed from Rio de Janeiro to New York.
Veloso said images and witnesses revealed that the swimmers arrived by taxi at a gas station in Barra da Tijuca and damaged a bathroom at the location. Gas station employees summoned police and have not let the swimmers leave. Police now concluded that the Americans were vandals and not victims of a robbery.
There was no physical confrontation, but security personnel presented a gun when the swimmers attempted to leave. According to witnesses, Lochte behaved in a hot-tempered way and was really drunk. They settled the matter by paying 100 reais plus US$ 20 for the damage.
“We have not concluded the necessary measures for solving the case, to know which was the crime, because we are still hearing witnesses. These are preliminary findings,” explained Veloso.
The head of Rio’s civil police responded to Lochte lawyer’s calling this police operation a complete circus. “There is no one here with a clown nose, nor with clown shoes,” he said, pointing out that athletes should apologize for what they have done to the people of Rio.
“It would be noble of them to apologize to the residents of Rio, who saw the image of their city tarnished by a fabricated story,” he said.
Police stops US swimmers from leaving Brazil
Thursday, at the end of the day, American Olympics officials issued an apology:
“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,” the note said.
“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.”