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Rio's authorities doubt US gold medalists were robbed

Ryan Lochte's account of being robbed at gunpoint with three teammates embarrassed the Brazilian authorities. Now investigators are due to question all the swimmers involved, except for Lochte, who has already left the country.

by Jo Tuckman
Aug 17 2016, 9:35pm

Foto di Michael Sohn, File/AP Photo

Brazilian authorities are due to question three members of the US Olympic swimming team about accounts that they were robbed at gunpoint last weekend, along with teammate Ryan Lochte.

Police pulled Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz from a plane on Wednesday night in Rio de Janeiro's airport, releasing them later on the understanding that they would cooperate fully with the investigation. The third swimmer, James Feigen, reportedly never tried to leave the country.

The 12-time Olympic medalist Lochte — who along Feigen won a gold medal in the 4x100m relay this year — is already in the United States.

The Brazilian authorities were deeply embarrassed by the massive media attention given to Lochte's account of being robbed alongside the other three athletes early on Sunday, when the group was in a taxi returning to the Olympic Village after a party.

The story fuelled existing concern about rampant crime in Rio, and directly challenged repeated assurances from Brazilian officials that the 85,000 police and soldiers deployed during the Games could at least keep the athletes safe.

Then, investigators then took their claims to be unable to find evidence to support the story to a court in Rio that on Wednesday ordered Lochte and Feigen to expand on the versions of the incident they had given to the authorities.

Judge Keyla Blank released a statement saying this was necessary because of discrepancies in their stories. She also highlighted their apparently relaxed mood when they returned to the Olympic Village after the incident, as seen on security camera footage.

"You can see how the supposed victims arrive with their physical and psychological well being intact," the judge said. "They are even joking together."

The doubt now cast over the robber has triggered a wave of anger on social media. Lochte's official Facebook account is now filled with comments written in English by furious Brazilians.

"We not deserve to be abused by irresponsible brat," Maria Auxiliadora Dos Santos Ferreira wrote. "No use being a high-performance athlete is able to lie and make up stories denigrating a city that welcomed you... yes, you are a loser."

Back in the US Lochte himself has reportedly toned down his original version of the story. He has, however, insisted that the group was robbed in a taxi and that there was a gun involved.

"This is a complete circus," his lawyer, Jeff Ostrow, told NBC. "Shame on Brazilian authorities for trying to flip the script and make it sound like Ryan isn't telling the truth."

Related: The Rio Olympics want you to forget that Brazil is in turmoil

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman

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