Two US swimmers have been prevented from boarding flights back to the US by Brazilian police, as doubts swirl about claims that they and two teammates had been robbed at gunpoint at the weekend.
On Sunday the United States Olympic Committee said that Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen had been attacked by men dressed as police officers after leaving a party. But Brazilian authorities have said that the men have given inconsistent accounts of the alleged incident.
Local TV station Globo News showed footage on Wednesday of Bentz and Conger being escorted to the police station at Rio de Janeiro’s international airport. The O Globo newspaper reported that federal police had stopped them from boarding the aircraft, while some reports suggested teammate Feigen had also been prevented from boarding a flight home.
The whereabouts of Lochte, one of the US Olympic team’s star swimmers, are unknown, although reports suggest he has returned to the US.
The development came after a Brazilian judge ordered Lochte and Feigen have their passports seized to prevent them from leaving the country amid the ongoing police investigation into the alleged robbery.
The four had said they were in a taxi leaving a party at France House near the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the early hours of Sunday morning. Lochte told US television network NBC that they had been robbed at gunpoint.
But the Brazilian court has alleged that during separate interviews, the swimmers gave different accounts of the incident. While Lochte said they had been robbed by one man who took $ 400 in cash, Feigen said they were approached by several men, the court said.
The USOC and the International Olympic Committee, the governing body of the games, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier on Wednesday Patrick Sandusky, chief external affairs officer of the USOC, said in response to the Brazilian Judge’s order: “Local police arrived at the Olympic Village this am and asked to meet with Ryan Lochte and James Feigen and collect their passports in order to secure further testimony from the athletes. The swim team moved out of the village after their competition ended, so we were not able to make the athletes available.”
“Additionally, as part of our standard security protocol, we do not make athlete travel plans public and therefore cannot confirm the athletes’ current location. We will continue to co-operate with Brazilian authorities.”
A US government official said, reffering to media reports of the swimmers being detained, said: “We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Due to privacy considerations we do not have any further information to offer”.
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