Athlete Jason Lee Reportedly Kidnapped In Rio, Forced To Pay Ransom Just Days Before Olympics [Video]

Athlete Jason Lee has become the poster child for security concerns that have plagued the 2016 Rio Olympics. For months, Brazilians have claimed that the nation would be incapable of providing basic security to Olympic athletes during the 2016 summer games, and if Jason’s Lee’s story is any indication, the people of Brazil were telling it like it is. According the the New Zealand Jui-Jitsu champion, just days before the Rio de Janeiro Olympic games are scheduled to start, he was kidnapped by men in police uniforms.

As the New Zealand Herald first reported, athlete Jason Lee claims to have been kidnapped on July 23. He says that a group of men in police uniforms told him that he would be arrested if he refused to go with them, then forced him to withdraw money from ATMs in order to secure his release.

Jason Lee took to both Facebook and Twitter to share his experience. On Facebook, he kept it simple, posting that “yesterday I got kidnapped in Brazil.” He added that his kidnappers weren’t some kind of random, gun-wielding attackers or outlaws. Rather, they were a group of people in police uniforms. Official looking people who threatened to arrest the champion athlete if he refused to get into their car.

“I was threatened with arrest if I did not get in their private car and accompany them to two ATMs to withdraw a large sum of money for a bribe.”


Jason apparently decided to accompany the “police” rather than risk arrest or worse by refusing. He withdrew money from his bank account via ATM and was ultimately released.


“I’m not sure what’s more depressing, the fact this stuff is happening to foreigners so close to the Olympic Games or the fact that Brazilians have to live in a society that enables this absolute bulls**t on a daily basis.”

As the BBC reports, athlete Jason Lee has been a temporary resident in Brazil for nearly a year now; he moved to the South American nation from New Zealand to perfect his Jiu-Jitsu technique and focus on his training. However, he won’t be participating in the upcoming summer Olympic games himself, because his Jiu-Jitsu is not a sport recognized by the Olympic Games. Earlier this year, Lee spoke of his decision to uproot his life and move to Brazil for the love of his sport.

“I decided to pack up my life and move here to pursue my dream of being a professional athlete and training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu full time at one of the best gyms in the world.”


The kidnapping of athlete Jason Lee on the eve of the Rio Olympics is just the latest illustration of the security concerns that have plagued the upcoming Olympic games. 2016 has been a particularly deadly and bloody year in Rio, with the murder rate in the city climbing substantially in the first half of the year. Another big problem for the Olympic venue city is the large number of murders and other crimes committed by the police, the ones who are supposed to be protecting both citizenry and tourists like Jason Lee.

As the kidnapping of athlete Jason Lee illustrates, claims by locals that the police can’t and/or won’t protect Olympic tourists seem to be based in observable fact.


Rio leadership has promised that tourists coming to town for the Summer Games should be able to avoid most of the violence in the city, since the worst of the problem is localized in the slums. Despite deploying tens of thousands of extra police officers and soldiers to help keep the August Games safe, situations like the one faced by athlete Jason Lee continue to play out. Indeed, in the case of Jason Lee, it was the police that he had to fear, not the “thugs” in the city’s slums.

In addition to the security concerns in Rio, athletes attending the Games are facing health concerns as well. The Australian Olympic team (rooted not far from athlete Jason Lee’s native New Zealand) won’t be allowing their athletes to stay in the dilapidated Rio Olympic Village because the place is so run down.

The Rio Olympics are scheduled to begin on August 5. Do you think that the kidnapping of athlete Jason Lee is a portent of things to come?

[Image via dmitry_islentev/Shutterstock]