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Ryan Lochte's teammates pulled off plane in Rio amid robbery probe

Two Olympic swimmers were taken off their flight from Brazil to the U.S. on Wednesday by local authorities amid an investigation into a reported robbery targeting Ryan Lochte and his teammates.

Judge ordered Olympic gold-medal winner to stay in Brazil following claims of robbery

U.S. swimmers brought in for questioning by police

6 years ago
Duration 0:39
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger to talk about reported robbery

Two Olympic swimmers were taken off their flight from Brazil to the U.S. on Wednesday by local authorities amid an investigation into a reported robbery targeting Ryan Lochte and his teammates.

A lawyer for the two athletes said they will not be allowed to leave Brazil until they provide testimony to investigators, who are still searching for answers about how the swimmers got robbed Sunday morning along with teammate Ryan Lochte.

Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz left the Rio de Janeiro airport for an unspecified location in Brazil and had not yet testified, said lawyer Sergio Viegas. The swimmers did not speak to reporters upon leaving the airport and getting shuttled away in a black car waiting outside.

They were later released, according to a U.S. Olympic Committee official, with the understanding that discussions would continue amid uncertainty over what truly took place during a late outing the night Olympic swimming wrapped up at the Rio Games.

Police have found little evidence so far to support the swimmers' claims, and say they were unable to provide key details in interviews.

Lochte has said he was with Conger, Bentz and Jimmy Feigen when they were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with a police badge as they returned to the athletes village from a party, several hours after the last Olympic swimming events were held Sunday.

Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates say they were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi Sunday morning as they returned to the athletes village from a party. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

NBC reported Wednesday night that Lochte backed off some of his earlier claims. He now says the taxi wasn't pulled over but that they were robbed after making a stop at a gas station, NBC reported. Lochte also said the assailant pointed a gun at him rather than putting it to his head.

The swimmer's lawyer told NBC the changes to the story were "not material" and the "fact remains they were robbed at gunpoint."

Lochte has returned home to the U.S., while the other three swimmers remain in Brazil.

Patrick Sandusky, U.S. Olympic Committee spokesperson, said Conger and Bentz were detained and "released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday. James Feigen is also communicating with local authorities and intends to make further statements regarding the incident on Thursday as well."

A Brazilian judge earlier ordered the seizure of Lochte and Feigen's passports. The office of Judge Keyla Blanc said in a statement that there were discrepancies in Lochte and Feigen's statements.

The U.S. Olympic Committee said police went to the athletes village to try to collect the passports, but the swim team had already moved out. Representatives from the U.S. consulate arrived at the airport shortly after the swimmers were held.

Lochte's father 'just happy he's safe'

Lochte's father, Steve Lochte, told The Associated Press by phone from his Florida home that his son called him Tuesday after arriving in the United States. The 32-year-old swimmer was going to pick up his car and buy a new wallet to replace the one that he said was stolen in the robbery.

"I'm just happy he's safe," the elder Lochte said. "It was an unfortunate experience for him and the other three. I don't know what all the controversy is. They were basically taken out of the taxi and robbed. The main thing is he's very lucky that he's safe and that all they got was his cash and wallet."

The elder Lochte said his son's Olympic credential and cellphone weren't taken during the incident early Sunday morning. He said he was sure Ryan had his passport or he would not have been allowed to board a plane.

A police official with knowledge of the investigation told the AP that police cannot find their taxi driver or witnesses from the robbery. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

News reports sparked investigation 

The group did not call police, authorities said, and officers began investigating once they saw media reports in which Lochte's mother spoke about the robbery. Police interviewed Lochte and one other swimmer, who said they had been intoxicated and could not remember what type and colour of taxi they rode in or where the robbery happened, the police official said. The swimmers also could not say what time the events occurred.

Lochte's attorney, Jeff Ostrow, has said there is no question the robbery occurred.

"Why would anybody fabricate anything?" Steve Lochte said. "It's just ridiculous."

Lochte swam in two events at the Rio Games, winning gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. Bentz, 21, and Conger, 20, also earned gold for swimming in the preliminary heats of the 4x200 relay. Feigen, 26, received gold for swimming in the heats of the 4x100 free relay, which was won by the U.S.

Lochte described the incident to NBC's Today show.

"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 said. "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 cellphone, he left my credentials."

Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates didn't initially tell the U.S. Olympic officials about the robbery "because we were afraid we'd get in trouble."

Steve Bentz, father of Gunnar Bentz, when reached by phone late Wednesday night, said: "I really don't want to say anything," and hung up.

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