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U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte apologizes for not being 'more careful and candid' about alleged Rio robbery

U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has apologized for his behaviour surrounding a late-night incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station, saying he should have been more careful and candid about how he described what happened.

Ryan Lochte and teammates accused of lying about robbery, vandalizing gas station

U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte posted a statement on social media to quell the controversy caused by his claim that he and three teammates were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station in Rio. (Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has apologized for his behaviour surrounding a late-night incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station, saying he should have been more "careful and candid" about how he described what happened.

Lochte said in a lengthy post on Instagram Friday that he was apologizing for his role in taking the focus away from other Olympic athletes.

"This was a situation that could and should have been avoided," Lochte, 32, said. "I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons."

The 12-time Olympic medalist reiterated his view that a stranger pointed a gun at him and demanded money to let him leave. Lochte had called it a robbery; Brazilian police said he and three other swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom after a night of partying and were confronted by armed security guards.

In this image made from video, U.S. Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger walk in the departure area after checking into their flight at the airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday. (Associated Press)

"Regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry," Lochte said.

"We accept and appreciate his apology," Mario Andrada, spokesman for the local organizers of the Rio Games, said of Lochte's statement.

CNN, citing unnamed sources, reported that Lochte had been suspended by USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee. But Patrick Sandusky, chief external affairs officer of USOC, was quick to deny that report, saying no action will take place until after the Rio Games.

Two of the other swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, 20, and Jack Conger, 21, were on their way home Friday after being held in the country to testify. The fourth swimmer, 26-year-old Jimmy Feigen, made a deal with a Brazil judge to make a $10,800 payment and be allowed to leave the country, his lawyer said.

The drama surrounding the alleged robbery — and the ever-changing descriptions of it by the swimmers — has shocked and deeply angered Brazilians, who said it cast a false negative shadow on their city and their Olympics at a time the country is eager to prove it can host the games safely. The saga was also an enormous embarrassment for the U.S. Olympic team, which has dominated in the medal count.

Rapid developments early Friday came hours after police announced that Lochte and three of his teammates had not been held at gunpoint after a night of partying, as Lochte claimed. Instead, Brazilian police said the men, while intoxicated, vandalized a gas station bathroom and were questioned by armed guards before they paid for the damage and left.

"No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed," Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said.

'They did not lie'

The attorneys for Bentz and Conger have said those swimmers were witnesses only and had nothing to do with Lochte's story.

"They did not make any untruthful testimony. They did not lie in their statements," lawyer Sergio Riera told The Associated Press.

In a statement released Friday evening, Bentz said he regrets that what happened drew attention away from the Games. He added he was anxious to put the situation behind him, but stressed that he was never a suspect and never made a false statement to police. 

Jimmy Feigen, seen here at the U.S. swimming trials in June 2012, will donate the equivalent of $10,800 US to charity and leave Brazil Friday, his lawyer said. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Bentz provided a detailed account of what he said occurred, including Lochte pulling a sign from a wall and getting in a " heated verbal exchange" with security guards. 

"Videos of this situation have been emerging the last several days. However, I am confident that some video angles have not been shown that would further substantiate my account. I also believe some scenes have been skipped over. Additionally, I would like to stress that our original taxi was not pulled over; the only occupants of the taxi were the four of us and the driver; and to my knowledge, there was no damage done to the door or the inside of the restroom," he said.

A lawyer for another swimmer, James Feigen, said early Friday that the athlete reached an agreement with a judge in which he planned to donate 35,000 Brazilian reals ($10,800 US) to an "institution" and leave the country later in the day.

Police have said authorities are considering charges of falsely reporting a crime and destruction of property, both of which can carry up to six months in jail or a fine.

Lochte's attorney, Jeff Ostrow, has insisted the story wasn't made up and told the New York Times the surveillance video corroborated the "primary elements" of Lochte's version of events.

"There was a uniformed person with a gun who forced them to hand over their money," Ostrow told the newspaper.

Lochte previously said he wasn't sure if Rio was his last Olympics, although at 36 years of age by the time of the Tokyo Games, his prospects for qualifying would be far from certain. He won just one medal in Brazil, as part of a U.S. relay team, after winning six individual medals between the 2004 and 2012 Olympics.

Ryan Lochte's statement:

With files from CBC News

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