It’s been just under a week since news that Ryan Lochte and three other Americans were held at gunpoint spread across the internet like wildfire. It confirmed the worst kinds of assumptions many had about the Rio Olympics and was set to be a major black eye that might take years for Brazil to overcome. That is, until it turned out to be completely untrue.
Discrepancies in Lochte’s stories were already growing when surveillance footage surfaced showing Ryan and his companions vandalizing a gas station. Brazilian authorities claim a security guard pointed a gun at them, but claim they were not the victims of a robbery as Lochte claimed. We’re not sure if that makes the story any better or worse, but it’s certainly different from the tale we got in the first place.
Now swimmer Gunnar Bentz is releasing his own statement to try and clear the air about what happened that night and what part he played in the cover up. From the University of Georgia via Yahoo Sports:
“While I am anxious to put this matter behind me and rejoin my Georgia teammates in classes, practices and competitions, I feel compelled to stress several key points.
1. I was never a suspect in the case from the beginning (Brazilian law enforcement officials saw me only as a witness).
2. I never made a false statement to anyone at any time.
“I also want to be forthright about the details of what transpired last Sunday. What follows is consistent with the account I gave to the Brazilian authorities when I was interviewed for the first and only time on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro:
“After attending an event with several swimmers from different nations, I left in a taxicab along with U.S. swimmers Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte around 6 a.m. On the way back to the Olympic Village, we pulled into a convenience store to use the restroom. There was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes. There was a locked door out back and I did not witness anyone breaking it open. I am unsure why, but while we were in that area, Ryan pulled to the ground a framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall. I then suggested to everyone that we needed to leave the area and we returned to the taxi.
“Two men, whom I believe to have been security guards, then instructed us to exit the vehicle. No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guard’s waistband. As Jimmy and Jack were walking away from the vehicle, the first security guard held up a badge to me and drew his handgun. I yelled to them to come back toward us and they complied. Then the second guard drew his weapon and both guards pointed their guns at us and yelled at us to sit on a nearby sidewalk.
“Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards. After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made.
Bentz claims that the security guards pointed guns at them and demanded money in order to let them leave. After forking over about $50 worth of Brazilian reals, the guards let them go and they flagged down another cab a block away to get them back to the Olympic Village. And while the video currently floating around of the incident hasn’t painted the Americans in the best light, Gunnar says he’s hopeful other video footage and angles appear that he hopes will “further substantiate my account.”
Bentz and teammate Jack Conger returned to the states on Thursday night and all four US Olympic swimmers are facing fines from the Brazilian government if it’s found that they provided false testimony regarding the incident. There’s also a chance they may have to answer to USA Swimming and face further sanctions and punishments. Considering how this whole thing has turned into an international public relations fiasco, apologies are certainly in order. Better ones than we’ve seen so far from Ryan Lochte, too.