Ryan Lochte (Getty Images)
Washington - Star
US swimmer Ryan Lochte apologised to Brazil on Friday for inventing a
story that he and three teammates were mugged during the Olympics, as
one of them paid $10 800 to avoid charges.
The US gold medal-winning swimmers hoped to draw a line under the
scandal that erupted when Lochte went public with a shocking report of
how the four were mugged on their way back from a party in Rio de
The claim that a man posing as a police officer held them up at
gunpoint early on Sunday and forced them to the ground sparked a media
frenzy and pushed Brazilian Olympic authorities into an embarrassed
But after police declared the story was fabricated - saying all that
happened was that the swimmers were subdued by security after getting
drunk and vandalizing a gas station bathroom - the now discredited
Lochte finally came clean.
"I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and
for that am sorry to my team-mates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my
sponsors and the hosts of this great event," Lochte said in a statement.
Late Thursday, US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun also
apologised "to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this
distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration
authorities turned the tables on the swimmers this week as it became
clear that the mugging drama did not hold up.
A judge ordered the athletes' passports to be confiscated so that
they could not leave the country. Lochte had already left, but the other
three - Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen - were forced to
undergo questioning in Rio police stations.
On Thursday, police provided CCTV footage and other evidence about what really happened.
The athletes, who appeared to be intoxicated, stopped in a taxi at a
gas station to use the bathroom during the early hours of the morning.
Lochte and the others then vandalised the area near the bathroom and, according to the manager there, urinated on the walls.
Confronted by a security guard, they tried to leave. When the
confrontation escalated, the security guard took out his pistol and made
them sit on the ground.
After paying about $50 in compensation for the damage to the station, they left unharmed and returned to the athletes' Village.
"There was no robbery of the kind reported by the athletes," Rio de
Janeiro's police chief Fernando Veloso said.
"The images do not show any
kind of violence against them."
The three swimmers kept in Brazil retracted the mugging story in interviews with police on Thursday.
Bentz and Conger were then given back their passports and left
immediately. Feigen was brought before a judge and ordered first to pay
35 000 reais ($10 800) to a charitable institution in order to be freed,
police confirmed on Friday.
"The swimmer accepted the proposal," police said in a statement.
The swimmers will now have to face Olympic team leaders back home.
"While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the
lapse in judgment and conduct that led us to this point," USA Swimming
executive director Chuck Wielgus said.
"It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals."
Blackmun also called the swimmers' conduct "not acceptable".
"We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences
for the athletes, when we return to the United States," he said.
Rio is plagued by violent
crime and Brazil has deployed 85 000 police and soldiers to secure the
Olympics. Numerous athletes - including a British team member on
Tuesday night - have been mugged.
But given Lochte's high profile, his mugging claim and the reported
involvement of someone with police identification caused huge
embarrassment, overshadowing sporting action in the second week of South
America's first Olympics.
Brazilian media has covered the US athletes' subsequent humiliation
in exhaustive detail. The powerful Globo television network broadcasting
leaked police evidence, shredding the swimmers' story, far before the
authorities made any public statement.
In the United States, Lochte came in for some serious scorn, with
comments in the media and on the Internet almost universally scathing.
In his apology on Friday, Lochte, who has won 12 Olympic medals and is 32, said the gas station confrontation had been scary.
"It's traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country - with a language barrier - and have a stranger point a gun at you
and demand money to let you leave," he said.
But he said: "I accept my responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons."