Ryan Lochte (Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro - The Brazilian authorities have charged US
swimming star Ryan Lochte with making a false statement about being robbed at
gunpoint during the Olympics, police said on Thursday.
The 32-year-old gold medal-winner risks a jail sentence,
Brazilian media quoted a police official as saying, although the judicial
authorities had yet to confirm that.
"Ryan Lochte was charged with the crime of falsely
reporting a crime," police said in a statement, adding that the case had
been referred to the courts.
The police statement said they had recommended the courts
issue a summons for Lochte to be questioned.
"Once he is summoned, whether he turns up or not, the
penalty is the same: one to six months' prison," the news website G1 Rio
quoted police official Clemente Braune as saying.
"If he is summoned and does not turn up to the hearing,
the trial will go ahead in the accused's absence until the final sentence is
Lochte apologised last week for saying that he and three
team-mates had been mugged on their way back from an all-night party by robbers
pretending to be police.
Rio police chief Fernando Veloso later told a news
conference that the swimmers were not robbed but detained when they tried to
flee after vandalizing a gas station bathroom.
The tale humiliated first the Brazilian hosts of the Games
and later Lochte's own Team USA after police contested his story.
Top sponsors such as Speedo and Ralph Lauren abandoned
Lochte this week.
"I'm taking full responsibility for it," Lochte
said in an interview broadcast late on Saturday.
"I over-exaggerated that story and if I had never done
that, we wouldn't be in this mess."
Lochte had earlier issued a written apology that was widely
ridiculed online as half-hearted.
In the later NBC interview, he also admitted he was still
intoxicated when he gave his initial account of the incident, adding: "I
let my team down."
Following the incident, Lochte flew back to the United
States, while the other three swimmers - Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy
Feigen - stayed in Brazil.
Police last week released closed-circuit TV footage and
other evidence about the events at the gas station.
The athletes, who appeared intoxicated, stopped in a taxi at
the gas station to use the bathroom during the early hours of the morning.
Lochte and the others then vandalized the area near the
bathroom and, according to the manager, 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 around $50 in compensation for the damage, they
left unharmed and returned to the athletes' village.
"There was no robbery of the kind reported by the
athletes," Veloso said.
Lochte's claims embarrassed the Olympic authorities,
highlighting security worries at the Olympics.
Brazil had deployed 85 000 police and soldiers to secure the
Lochte could also face disciplinary action over the incident
by USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee.
One US company threw Lochte a lifeline on Thursday, however.
Pine Bros. Softish Throat Drops said it would launch a series of ads featuring
Lochte with the slogan: "Forgiving on Your Throat."