Brazilian police pulled two American Olympic swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, off a plane leaving for the U.S. from Rio De Janeiro's international airport late Wednesday, Olympic officials said.
They were taken in for questioning regarding the alleged gunpoint robbery that occurred Sunday in which their teammate Ryan Lochte said that he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in Rio by men claiming to be police officers.
According to reports, authorities said that Bentz and Conger will not be allowed to leave the country till they testify about the robbery and that their passports have been “temporarily confiscated by a court order.”
"Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were detained Wednesday night shortly before their flight was scheduled to depart from Rio. They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday,” the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a statement. “James Feigen is also communicating with local authorities and intends to make further statements regarding the incident on Thursday as well.”
Authorities have found little evidence to support the robbery claim. The police said that the team’s account of when they returned to the Olympic village after the robbery reportedly does not match CCTV recordings.
A Brazilian judge issued an order Wednesday banning Lochte and teammate Feigen from leaving the country pending the investigation. But Lochte’s lawyer Jeffrey Ostrow told the BBC that Lochte returned to the U.S. two days ago.
“He arrived back before the judge issued anything,” Ostrow said. “He was never asked to remain for further investigation or for any other purpose after he met with Brazilian authorities after he gave a statement.”
There was some confusion regarding Feigen’s whereabouts. One police source told Reuters that Feigen was also detained at the airport but another source said that authorities had gone to pick up Feigen who was also supposed to be on the same Wednesday flight but did not find him. However, U.S. officials confirmed that Feigen is still in Brazil.
The swimmers were reportedly intoxicated when leaving the party Sunday and said that they did not remember what cab they took or when and where the assault occurred. The police have not identified the taxi yet. Rio prosecutor André Buonora said that if the claims turn out to be false the swimmers could face charges for providing false testimony.
Ostrow rejected the idea that the swimmers fabricated the assault. “The country has a dark cloud over it for a million and one reasons, from their economy to their crime to their management of the Olympics,” he said. “My client [Lochte] has cooperated thoroughly with the Brazilian authorities and stands behind his statement.”