A triumphant U.S. swimming performance at the Olympic Games was tarnished Thursday when the Rio de Janeiro police chief accused four American swimmers of lying about being robbed, apparently to cover up their vandalizing of a service station restroom, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Chief Fernando Veloso said the swimmers, including 12-time medalist Ryan Lochte, were apparently intoxicated when they damaged a mirror and other bathroom accessories at the station at about 6 a.m. Sunday. Confronted by service station workers, they attempted to flee, he said, but were prevented from leaving when an off-duty police officer working as a security guard pointed his pistol in their direction and ordered them to sit down while police were called. The police never came.
Veloso said the swimmers – Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen – could be charged with filing a false police report and for damaging personal property. The U.S. Olympic Committee said Bentz and Conger had been allow to board a plane for the United States and that Feigen had revised his account “with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible.” Brazil has asked for FBI assistance in questioning Lochte, who had returned to the U.S. before a judge’s order to seize his passport could be executed. The U.S. committee called the swimmers’ behavior “not acceptable” and said, “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.” The swimmers’ claim of being victims of an armed robbery made news worldwide because the city had already seen a number of high-profile muggings and hold-ups. It undid much of the marketing efforts Brazil had made for the famed city.