Gold medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte is talking to the press about the harrowing experience of being held up at gunpoint by men posing as Rio de Janeiro police officers. During an interview with the Today show this morning, Lochte explained, "The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and said 'get down.' I was like (puts hands up) I put my hands up. I was like 'whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet."
Lochte and three other Team USA swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feign, were in a cab early Sunday morning, heading back to the Olympic Village from a party at the Club France, which the NY Times calls "a French hospitality house established during the Rio Games in the upscale Lagoa neighborhood."
The U.S. Olympic Committee said, "Their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings. All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities."
The International Olympic Committee initially claimed the reports were "absolutely not true," but later admitted the robbery did occur.
Lochte said, "We got pulled over in our taxi and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge. No lights, no nothing, just a police badge. They pulled us over, they pulled out their guns. They told the other swimmers to get down on the ground, they got down on the ground." He said, "I refused. I was like 'We didn't do anything wrong so I'm not getting down on the ground,'" but then one of the robbers put the gun to his head:
A former Rio police chief, Ubiratan Angelo, told NBC News that the cab driver might have been involved in the crime: "Where is the taxi driver, (he) disappeared, nobody knows."
The Wall Street Journal reports, "Mr. Lochte and his teammates apparently violated at least one recommended protocol. The USOC advised athletes not to use taxis, but to take USOC vehicles, media buses or Uber, according to two people familiar with the U.S. team’s security plan. Uber is approved by the State Department, one person familiar with the matter said, in part because of its location-tracking ability."
A security firm owner told the WSJ, "The State Department has made it very clear, that outside of the Olympic Village and right around there, it’s on you. Guys like Lochte, folks that are in the public, people know who they are. I’m surprised there’s not some type of security with them, or someone doing surveillance for them."
Worries about Rio's high crime rates, even among tourists using Uber, have plagued the 2016 Olympics (there's also a drug war simmering). Before the games started, members of the Australian team had their belongings taken during a fire drill. And during the games, so far, a Belgian judo medalist was beaten during a robbery on Copacabana Beach; Portugal's education minister was robbed at knifepoint after a cycling event; and a Brazilian security official for the Olympics was robbed after the opening ceremonies.
The investigation is continuing. Lochte thanked his fans for their support: