RIO DE JANEIRO — Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte and three other members of the U.S. Olympic swimming team were robbed at gunpoint “by individuals posing as armed police officers” in Brazil, the U.S. Olympic Committee said Sunday.
Along with Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jimmy Feigen and Rockville (Maryland) native Jack Conger were in a taxi that was held up for the “athletes’ money and other personal belongings,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. Conger’s mother, Bridget, told The Post, “All I know is Jack is safe and in Rio,” adding that she learned of the incident on social media. All four athletes are safe.
Earlier reports conflicted: Before the USOC’s confirmation, Mark Adams, the IOC’s director of communications, initially told reporters in Rio that the report of the robbery was “not true” while Lochte’s personal coach also denied it to USA Today. Meanwhile, Lochte’s mother confirmed it. Later, Lochte detailed the event to NBC’s Billy Bush, including having a gun pressed against his forehead:
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte told NBC. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira’s representative, Flávio Perez, told The Post that Lochte was in a taxi leaving Club France on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon when the vehicle was robbed. Video on O Globo shows Lochte and Pereira at an event together.
“Thiago Pereira and his wife Gabriela Pauletti were in Club France, the French house in Brazil, and they were celebrating the birthday of a friend in common,” said Perez, Pereira’s spokesman. “Lochte was also in the same place, commemorating the same birthday. Ryan and Thiago are friends. Thiago and his wife left earlier, they left alone, the two of them. Thiago and his wife went back to their hotel. Then Thiago, on finding out what happened, called Ryan. Ryan is well, and Thiago said that the robbery, according to Ryan, was in the taxi. The taxi was robbed.”
Bentz tweeted Sunday afternoon that all the swimmers are safe.
We are all safe. Thank you for your love and support.
— Gunnar Bentz (@TheGunnyBunny) August 14, 2016
A spokesman for Club France, Hugo Sppezapria, said that Lochte, Pereira and friends attended a party inside Club France — a large establishment along the lagoon with sports fields, a place to ride horses, and food and clothing vendors — into the early morning hours Sunday. The party, which began around 11:30 p.m., took place at a venue inside the club called the Picadeiro Armando de Alencar and was hosted by Café de la Musique. Some 2,500 people attended.
Sppezapria said that Lochte and Pereira left the party together between 2:30 and 3 a.m. and visited another “community.”
“Why the hell would they do that?” Sppezapria said.
Sppezapria said he didn’t know where the alleged robbery took place.
In a statement Sunday afternoon, Brazilian police promised to conduct an inquiry with another week of competition still to come:
Investigations are ongoing to investigate the robbery suffered by swimmers from the American Olympic swimming team. A police inquiry has been installed and the athletes will be interviewed to provide more details of the crime.
Lochte, 32, is a six-time Olympic gold medalist. He and the U.S. team won gold in the 4×200-meter freestyle. Lochte has not been in an event since Thursday and swimming events ended Saturday night.
Joshua Partlow in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.
This is a breaking news story; check back for further updates.