RIO DE JANEIRO- Ryan Lochte and three other American Olympic swimmers were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning by thieves posing as police officers, according to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
Lochte, a gold medalist swimmer, and teammates were returning to the athletes village after a night out at the French Olympic team’s hospitality house in the Rodrigo de Freitas area when their taxi was stopped. The outing took place several hours after swimming had ended Saturday night.
Lochte told NBC that one of the robbers held a gun to his forehead before taking his wallet and cellphone. The incident report said no one was injured.
The crime confirmed what many speculators believed to be an issue as Brazil’s economic crisis deepened, putting unemployment and poverty rates at a new high. The Rio state government deployed 85,000 soldiers and police around the Olympic Park for the duration of the games, which is double the amount Britain deployed during the London 2012 games.
Sunday morning’s incident is just one of many crimes that the Olympic Committee has had to deal with during the Rio Games, more than any other Olympics. According to the New York Times, on the night of opening ceremony the chief of security was mugged at knife point. Two coaches for Australia’s rowing team were attacked and robbed, while some Olympians were robbed of their belongings during a fire drill in the athletes’ village. Bullets have been seen landing in the equestrian area, and a bus carrying media members was attacked, windows being shattered.
Alongside Lochte, American swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen were robbed as well, said a statement from the committee.
“Their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings,” Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for the U.S.O.C. said. “All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities.”
Sandusky also told The Associated Press the robbers took cash and credit cards only, no Olympic medals were lost during the encounter.
According to the U.S.O.C., the American swimmers were leaving Club France, the French hospitality house established during the Rio Games. Hugo Sppezapria, a spokesman for Club France had confirmed that the swimmers had spent several hours in the club. The club’s party began at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night and went until 5 a.m. Sunday morning. He said the Americans left around 3 a.m.
The American swimmers attended the party, that played technical music, in celebration of another swimmer’s birthday.
Sppezapria said there was a police car stationed outside of Club France all night and called it a “rough situation.”
The civil police in the state of Rio are investigating the incident and are still searching for the driver of the taxi. The civil police said each swimmer would need to give their own accounts of what happened.
Bentz and Conger participated in the heats of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, but not the final. Feigen did the same in the 4×100-meter relay. Lochte won a gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay and finished fifth in the 200-meter individual medley. The swimming games came to an end Saturday night.
Another American swimmer, Ryan Murray, mentioned in a news conference Sunday that there had been multiple security briefings for the team before they traveled to the games. A spokesperson for the U.S.A. swimming team declined to comment what those security briefs included.
USA Today and Fox Sports Australia first broke the news of the event, citing Lochte’s mother, Ileana Lochte. Bother Ileana and Lochte’s agent had not answered phone calls or texts from The Associated Press immediately following the news being reported.
The robbery caused an uproar of confusion between Olympic and U.S. officials as an International Olympic Committee spokesman initially announced the report to be a rumor. He later apologized and said he had been relying on information from the U.S.O.C. that had been wrong.
Brazil’s Minister of Sport, Leonardo Picciani, had cited security at the games to be “absolutely efficient.”
Quotes were used from The New York Times and the Associated Press.