U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte issued an apology Friday for his behavior surrounding last weekend’s late-night incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station with three other American swimmers-- while sticking to his claim that he had gun pointed at his head by someone who demanded money.
“I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics,” Lochte wrote in statement posted on Twitter.
But he added: "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, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event."
“This was a situation that could and should have been avoided,” he said. “I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
The 12-time gold medalist said he and three swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint, but Rio police refuted that, saying the swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom and then were confronted by armed security guards.
Lochte's apology came a day after the U.S. Olympic Committee apologized lfor what it called a “distracting ordeal” involving four of its swimmers.
“The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members,” the USOC said in statement. “We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.”
Jack Feigen made a deal with a judge to make a $10,800 payment to leave Rio Friday. Feigen's attorney said the money will go to an "institution" and under Brazilian law, such a donation can be made to avoid criminal prosecution for minor offenses. The USOC said Feigen had given a judge a "revised statement" about the incident.
Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz arrived in Miami Friday morning. The two swimmers were moved to business class and had covered themselves to avoid the media during an overnight flight after they were jeered leaving Rio's airport, Reuters reports.
Conger and Bentz were allowed to leave Brazil after testifying about the alleged robbery. They initially tried to leave the country Wednesday night but were pulled off a plane by law enforcement.
The USOC’s apology and the swimmers' departure came hours after police announced that Lochte, Feigen, Conger and Bentz had not in fact been held at gunpoint after a night of partying, as Lochte previously claimed.
Police said the men were intoxicated when they vandalized a gas station bathroom and were questioned by armed guards before they paid for the damage and theft.
"No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed," Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said during a news conference Thursday.
An attorney for Bentz and Conger insisted they had nothing to do with Lochte’s story. Lochte had left Brazil earlier in the week.
Bentz and Conger "were heard only as witnesses. This has to be made very, very clear," lawyer Sergio Riera told The Associated Press. "They did not make any untruthful testimony. They did not lie in their statements."
Though police appear mostly finished with their probe, the case is far from settled. Police have said they are considering charges of falsely reporting a crime and destruction of property, both of which can carry up to six months in jail or a fine. Lochte's attorney has insisted the story wasn't made up — but neither he nor Lochte commented on the police account after it unfolded.
The saga began when Lochte said that he and Conger, Bentz and Feigen were held at gunpoint and robbed several hours after the last Olympic swimming races ended. That claim began to unravel when police said that investigators could not find evidence to substantiate it.
Then, security video reviewed by police confirmed the athletes vandalized parts of the gas station, leading to an encounter with station employees.
The video shows one of the swimmers pulling a sign off of a wall and dropping it onto the ground. A gas station worker arrives, and other workers inspect the damage. Veloso said the swimmers broke a door, a soap dispenser and a mirror.
The swimmers eventually talk with station workers and their cab leaves. In another sequence, the swimmers appear to briefly raise their hands while talking to someone and sit down on a curb.
After a few minutes, the swimmers stand up and appear to exchange something — perhaps cash, as police said — with one of the men.
The footage doesn't show a weapon, but a police official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said two guards pointed guns at the swimmers. Veloso said the guards did not use excessive force and would have been justified in drawing their weapons because the athletes "were conducting themselves in a violent way."
A station employee called police, and the guards and employees tried to get the swimmers and the taxi driver to stay until authorities arrived, some even offering to help interpret between English and Portuguese, Veloso said. But he said the athletes wanted to leave, so they “voluntarily” paid 100 Brazilian reals (about US $33) and $20 in U.S. currency and left.
Police said the swimmers were unable to provide key details in early interviews, saying they had been intoxicated. The police official said officers grew suspicious when security video showed the swimmers returning to the athletes village wearing watches, which would have likely been taken in a robbery.
Bentz and Conger told police that they felt Lochte had lied about the situation in media interviews, according to text of the statements released by Rio police.
"We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over," Lochte told NBC's "Today" the morning after the incident. "They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so — I'm not getting down on the ground.
"And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, 'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials."
The debacle prompted both wild speculation and social media mockery, which quickly turned to scorn after the official account went public. #LochteGate trended on Twitter, with users sharing video footage and posting comments about white privilege and rude Americans.
Lochte and the other swimmers could face sanctions from USA Swimming, including fines or suspension. The group, as well as Olympic officials, publicly expressed disappointment and said they would further examine the matter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.