It was meant to be a night of celebration after the swimming events at the Rio Olympics had wrapped up. But according to four American swimmers, including 12-time medalist Ryan Lochte, the night ended in misfortune, no thanks to an armed robbery.
Now, however, conflicting statements from Lochte and teammate James Feigen about the alleged robbery early Sunday have prompted a judge in Brazil to issue a search and seizure warrant for the athletes' passports, and hold them in the country for further questioning.
Lochte, however, was able to return to the United States two days before the judge issued the order, according to Lochte's lawyer Jeff Ostrow.
Feigen, who is still in Brazil, is reviewing the judicial order but plans to speak with the Brazilian government to corroborate his earlier statements, says Patrick Sandusky, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC).
Two other teammates involved in the incident, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were prevented by Brazilian authorities from flying out of Rio. They have since been released by authorities on the condition that they will cooperate in clarifying the events that took place on Aug. 14.
Bentz and Conger are barred from leaving Brazil until they submit a testimony to investigators, their lawyer Sergio Viegas explains. Holding off their departure on Wednesday night raised concerns about what exactly went on between the American swimmers and the robbers who allegedly posed as law enforcers.
What Really Went On?
Lochte and Feigen, in their statement to authorities, claimed they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio early Sunday as they were returning to the Olympic Village after a night out at France's hospitality house. Bentz and Conger have yet to issue a statement to the police.
Inconsistencies, however, in the accounts of Lochte and Feigen, along with the perceived equanimity of the four men even after the crime, have raised questions about the veracity of their claims.
In Lochte's statement, only one assailant was cited; in Feigen's, a number of robbers, one of whom was armed, were said to have stopped them. A video has also purportedly surfaced in which the four athletes appeared unshaken.
"You can see the supposed victims arriving without signs of being physically or psychologically shaken, even joking among themselves," says Judge Keyla Blanc De Cnop, who issued the warrant, after reviewing security footage supposedly taken from the Olympic Village after the incident.
Investigators need more time to corroborate the statements, the judge says, forcing the Brazilian government to hold off their departure.
Lochte's statements to NBC's Matt Lauer, who is covering the Rio Olympics, also suggest some changes to the details of the incident. The swimmer initially claimed the robber put the gun to his forehead, but he later said the weapon was pointed to him in a "general direction."
Lochte also earlier said the taxi that he and his teammates were riding in was pulled over by the robbers. But he explained to Lauer on Wednesday that the taxi had made a quick stop at a gas station and that the robbery took place as they were returning to the vehicle.
These inconsistencies, Lochte says, can be attributed to stress and "traumatic mischaracterization."