Ryan Lochte (Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro - A
Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered that passports be seized from US
Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte and James Feigen to stop them leaving the
country after doubts emerged over their claim to have been mugged at
The court order was the latest twist in a story of a supposedly
terrifying, high-profile incident that embarrassed Olympic authorities
and ramped up the fear factor for hundreds of thousands of tourists in
Rio at South America's first Olympics.
Now, Brazilian officials are suggesting that the US swimmers may not have told the whole truth - and need to answer questions.
Judge Keyla Blank "issued warrants for searches and the seizure of
the passports for the US swimmers," a statement from her office said.
"With this, they are banned from leaving the country."
The likelihood of the swimmers actually facing Brazilian police was uncertain.
Police issued a statement saying they'd gone to the Olympic athletes' Village, but the "athletes concerned were not found."
US media reported that Lochte's lawyer said the gold medal-winning
swimmer was already back in the United States. Feigen's movements were
The US Olympic Committee refused to comment on the athletes'
whereabouts but confirmed that Brazilian police were looking for the
"The swim team moved out of the village after their competition
ended, so we were not able to make the athletes available, spokesperson
Patrick Sandusky said.
“Additionally, as part of our standard security protocol, we do not
make athlete travel plans public and therefore cannot confirm the
athletes' current location."
Sandusky said the US team would "continue to cooperate with Brazilian authorities.”
Lochte says that he
and three team-mates were held up by muggers posing as police as they
left a late night party in central Rio.
Reports of the incident were immediately plunged into confusion when
the International Olympic Committee denied that anything had happened.
Lochte, however, gave interviews describing the supposed robbery in
detail and Brazilian Olympic authorities later issued a public apology.
With some 85,000 police and soldiers guarding the Olympics - twice
the number used in London - security has been a major issue in Rio. In
addition to multiple incidents of thefts from Olympic athletes or media,
a Portuguese government minister was mugged in the swish Leblon
Lochte said he had a gun put to his forehead in the robbery, when the
swimmers' taxi was pulled over by criminals who forced them to lie on
the ground and stole money and other items.
"The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and
he said, 'Get down,'" Lochte said afterward. "He took our money, he took
my wallet - he left my cell phone, he left my credentials."
However, Olympic officials have said police are still looking for key
witnesses, including the driver of the cab the swimmers said they had
been in. Police on Wednesday yet again issued an appeal for the driver
to contact them.
And Blank's office said the judge was probing "possible inconsistencies in the swimmers' stories".
These included different accounts of how many assailants there were.
Another point raising doubts over the swimmers' stories was their
behavior, caught on security cameras, as they returned to their hotel
after the supposed robbery, the judge said.
"It's noticeable that the victims arrived back physically and mentally unshaken, even joking with each other," the judge said.
The video in question, posted on Britain's Daily Mail tabloid
website, shows the four swimmers passing through an X-ray machine,
taking what could be wallets or cellphones from their pockets. At one
moment Lochte playfully hits a team-mate with his Olympic accreditation.
Otherwise, the clip shows little out of the ordinary.