Brazilian police removed two U.S. Olympic swimmers from a plane before takeoff Wednesday night, following mounting questions about the athletes’ account of being robbed at gunpoint.
Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz are being questioned by the authorities, CNN reported. Teammate Ryan Lochte returned to America two days ago. A fourth swimmer, James Feigen, is thought to still be in Brazil.
Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, departed the 2016 Olympics’ host nation on Monday before officers could seize his passport to ensure he was available for questioning, officials said Wednesday.
“The swim team moved out of the village after their competition ended, so we were not able to make the athletes available,” Patrick Sandusky, spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee, told The New York Times, adding that the USOC’s security protocol prevented him from confirming the athletes’ current locations.
A Brazilian judge issued a search and seizure warrant for Lochte and Feigen so their account of being taken out of a taxi and robbed at gunpoint early Sunday in Rio could be investigated.
Video footage captured th foursome laughing and smiling as they returned to the Olympic Village after the time they said they were robbed.
“You can see the supposed victims arriving without signs of being physically or psychologically shaken, even joking amongst themselves,” Judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop said in a statement, the Times reported.
The reported attack comes when Brazilian authorities are under scrutiny for an array of armed assaults during the Games, despite the deployment of an 85,000-member security force. If the swimmers’ story is deemed bogus, the false communication of a crime carries a maximum sentence of three years under Brazilian law.
However, Lochte’s lawyer, Jeff Ostrow, has rejected accusations that they fabricated the events. “The country has a dark cloud over it for a million and one reasons, from their economy to their crime to their management of the Olympics,” he said. “My client has cooperated thoroughly with the Brazilian authorities and stands behind his statement.”
Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates did not initially tell the USOC about what had happened “because we were afraid we’d get into trouble” for being out at a party until the early hours of the morning. Video cameras show the swimmers leaving the party at the Club France venue at 5:50 a.m., about an hour before they arrived at the Olympic Village at 6:56 a.m., according to Extra, a Rio newspaper.
Lochte, 32, swam in two events at the Rio Games, winning gold in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Bentz and Conger also earned gold for swimming in the preliminary heats of the 4×200 relay. Feigen received gold for swimming in the heats of the 4×100 free relay, which the U.S. won.