U.S. Olympic swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz seem to be throwing teammate Ryan Lochte under the proverbial bus after coming clean that he fabricated claims that the swimmers had been robbed at a gas station on Sunday.
The swimmers reportedly told Brazilian police that in fact the four Americans – Lochte, Conger, Bentz and James Feigen – were at a gas station in Barra da Tijuca, a suburb of Rio where many Olympic venues are located. When one of them tried and failed to open the door to an outside bathroom, they pushed the door and broke it.
Security footage from the station shows the swimmers vandalizing the bathroom.
Workers at the gas station went to investigate the commotion, the official said. At first, they insisted that no guns were drawn by the gas station’s security guards, but a Brazilian police official recently told the Associated Press that the two guards at the gas station did take their guns out of their holsters and pointed them at the swimmers during the confrontation.
"No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed," Civil Police Fernando Veloso said during an afternoon news conference Thursday.
The change in the version of events came after police interviewed one of the security guards on Thursday. It further deepened the uncertainty about what truly happened inside the station.
Using a customer to help translate, the manager asked the swimmers to pay for the broken door. After a discussion, they paid him unknown amount of money and then left, a source told the AP.
The admission by Conger and Bentz, who were pulled off a flight to the U.S. by police on Wednesday, came as authorities released a video in which some of the incident was captured.
As of Thursday afternoon, Lochte, 32, stands behind his claim that he and his teammates were robbed.
Speaking to NBC’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday, Lochte did back off some of his earlier claims, saying that the athletes’ taxi hadn’t been pulled over by men with badges. Rather, the athletes were robbed after stopping at a gas station, he said.
Lochte also said the assailant pointed a gun at him rather than putting it to his forehead.
"They had gone to the bathroom in a gas station," Lauer said, quoting Lochte. "They got back to the taxi, and when they told the taxi driver to go, he didn't move. They said, 'Let's go' again. 'We've got to get out of here,' and again the taxi driver didn't move. And that's when he says two men approached the car with guns and badges."
Lochte vehemently denied any form of cover up due to the inconsistencies with his story, claiming he and his teammates would not have made the story up, NBC reported.
Authorities said that the swimmers did not call police; officers began investigating when they saw media reports in which Lochte's mother, Ileana Lochte, spoke about the incident.
U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said late Thursday morning that Lochte's teammates were scheduling a time and place to meet with authorities.
"All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. consulate in Rio," Sandusky said.
The swimmers could face punishment — probation, suspension, a fine or expulsion — under USA Swimming's code of conduct, which prohibits dishonesty or fraud. It was not immediately clear if the organization planned to act.
Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the Rio Olympic organizers, said he was relieved that the story had turned around.
"Let's give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret," Andrada said. "Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all time. They had fun. They made a mistake. It's part of life – life goes on. Let's go."
The situation escalated Wednesday when Conger and Bentz were pulled from a flight at the Rio de Janeiro’s airport amid uncertainty over what truly took place during the late-night outing after the swimming events wrapped up.
Court officials had called for the four swimmers' passports to be seized, but Lochte already had returned to the United States before authorities could enforce the decision.
Representatives from the U.S. consulate arrived at the airport shortly after the swimmers were stopped from leaving the country Wednesday night.
Lochte's attorney, Jeff Ostrow, previously said there is no question the robbery occurred.
"Why would anybody fabricate anything?" the swimmer’s father, Steven Lochte, said. "It's just ridiculous."
Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates didn't initially tell U.S. Olympic officials about the robbery because "we were afraid we'd get in trouble."
Steve Bentz, father of Gunnar Bentz, when reached by phone late Wednesday night by the AP, said, "I really don't want to say anything," and hung up.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.