Five-Ring Circus

IOC Denied That Ryan Lochte, Who Was Robbed at Gunpoint, Was Robbed at Gunpoint

Ryan Lochte holds a press conference on Aug. 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

At first, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams was adamant when asked about a report that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte had been robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. “I can tell you the story is absolutely not true,” Adams said on Sunday. With the denial of what he described as “a false story,” Adams was essentially calling Lochte’s mother, Ileana Lochte, a liar. After all, she was the one who told Fox Sports that her son and three teammates were robbed early Sunday morning.

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Ileana Lochte also confirmed the news to USA Today, saying the swimmer was with at least one teammate when they were confronted by robbers holding guns and knives as their cab stopped to get gas. While everyone involved was freaked out about the incident, Lochte was unharmed, she assured the paper. “I think they’re all shaken up. There were a few of them,” the swimmer’s mother said. “They just took their wallets and basically that was it.”

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Lochte himself later confirmed the news to NBC’s Billy Bush, saying he and “three other swimmers” were robbed. Adams, the IOC spokesman, now seems to realize he spoke too hastily. According to the Associated Press, he now says it looks like his initial denial “is not correct.”

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The robbery appears to have taken place after Lochte went to a club with a Brazilian swimmer. “Thiago Pereira and his wife Gabriela Pauletti were in Club France, the French house in Brazil, and they were celebrating the birthday of a friend in common,” Flavio Perez, Pereira’s spokesman, told the Washington Post. “Lochte was also in the same place, commemorating the same birthday. Ryan and Thiago are friends. Thiago and his wife left earlier, they left alone, the two of them. Thiago and his wife went back to their hotel. Then Thiago, on finding out what happened, called Ryan. Ryan is well, and Thiago said that the robbery, according to Ryan, was in the taxi. The taxi was robbed.”

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Video posted online that appears to be taken from Lochte’s Snapchat account shows Lochte and Pereira partying at a club before the robbery.

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As Slate’s Henry Grabar pointed out, before the games began a Formula 1 executive’s mother-in-law was kidnapped and later freed by police, while a non-Olympian jiujitsu star was robbed by the police themselves. News Corp photographer Brett Costello had $40,000 worth of equipment stolen in a Rio café early on in the games only to find the apparent thief pretending to be him a few days later at an Olympic event.

Other high-profile crime-related happenings in Rio during the Olympics have included: three Swedish tourists getting kidnapped at gunpoint; an official media bus coming under attack as it traveled back from an event; a stray bullet piercing a tent where a press conference was being held; the mugging of the Portuguese education minister in broad daylight; and the security chief for the Olympics getting attacked by a robber brandishing a knife. (The alleged thief was then shot dead by a police officer.)

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Update, Aug. 14: In an interview with NBC News, Lochte gave his account of the robbery.

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A transcript:

We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing, just a police badge and 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. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so—I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, “Get down,” and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet.

And here, again via NBC News, is a statement from the U.S. Olympic Committee:

According to four members of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte), they left France House early Sunday morning in a taxi headed for the Olympic Village. 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.

See more of Slate’s Olympics coverage.

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