For all of the twists and turns of the international incident that is Ryan Lochte and his fellow swimmers’ disputed tale of a robbery at a Rio gas station, we might have finally arrived at something like a definitive account of what happened to the four Team USA athletes in the early hours of Sunday morning thanks to a New York Times report.
The Times described at length the sort of backlash Lochte’s crew has faced from Brazilians over the cavalier way they abused the image of inadequate policing in Rio to cover up for their own misbehavior, detailed here:
In his original account, Mr. Lochte said the car had been pulled over by armed men, one of whom put a gun against his head before taking the cash from his wallet. But police investigators said Thursday that Mr. Lochte and the others had acted more like small-minded vandals than the victims they claimed to be.
Making a stop around 6 a.m. Sunday at a Shell gas station, the men were obviously drunk, the station’s owner said. They broke a soap dispenser in the bathroom, damaged a door, tore down a sign and urinated around the premises, the owner told reporters.
“One of them was really worked up,” said Mr. Veloso, the police chief, who described Mr. Lochte, 32, as a kind of elder ringleader of the group.
After the swimmers’ initial, misleading report of the incident to Rio police, the U.S. Olympic Committee reportedly spoke with all four — Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz — and told them to lay low pending a statement the USOC would release. So of course, Lochte immediately walked out and gave an interview with NBC Today with his version of events, setting off a firestorm of public attention.
Apparently, a security guard did indeed show his gun to the swimmers that morning, and the drunken quartet offered to pay the gas station owner for the damages. Police could not rule out that the Americans were confused and thought they were being held up, or that the swimmers might have actually been victims of an extortion attempt by the guards. The Rio police chief did make clear that no evidence indicates that an extortion attempt took place.
Perhaps the most important part of the Times‘ report, however, is a potential reason for why they made up the story in the first place:
Mr. Veloso said one of the first leads in the investigation had come from a taxi driver who gave a ride to two Brazilian women who had left the same party and discussed having romantic encounters with the swimmers.
“At least one of the athletes may have had a motive for telling a story that wasn’t true,” Mr. Veloso said, raising the possibility that the accounts were fabricated to disguise that the swimmers had remained at the party until almost sunrise. Mr. Veloso did not specify which of the swimmers might have had that motive.
So, reading between the lines here, it’s possible that one of the swimmers didn’t want his carousing with some Brazilian ladies at a fancy French party to be discovered, choosing to get ahead of the story by putting an account of a robbery out there first. Well, whichever swimmer it was, we hope it was worth an international incident.
Feigen, the swimmer besides Lochte who was charged with filing a false report, has donated $10,800 to a charity to avoid prosecution, and Lochte is expected to do the same.
(Via New York Times)