As the media-dubbed “Lochtegate” continues in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games, at least one organizer is calling for the world to “let it go” and just move on now, but that seems a difficult thing since new reports reveal that Ryan Lochte’s fellow Olympic swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were pulled off of a flight at the Rio Airport and the Brazilian police state this was done because it seemed “they [the American swimmers] had no intention to cooperate.”
This makes three Olympic swimmers left behind in Rio. Besides Conger and Bentz, Jimmy Feigen is also said to be detained by authorities. Conger and Bentz were taken off their flight from Brazil to the U.S. on Wednesday by local authorities; teammate Lochte flew out before them, however, as his passport was apparently not seized by authorities.
Mario Andrade is defending the swimmers as “Lochtegate” continues. He is calling for everyone to “let it go” now, per the quote from writers Mauricio Savarese and Beth Harris over at the Associated Press and a re-post at Yahoo of a Reuters News story on the matter.
“These kids tried to have fun, they tried to represent their country to the best of their abilities. They competed under gigantic pressure. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometime you take actions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”
In a press conference Thursday, an event which Brazilian investigators stated the United States consulate was invited to attend but declined, it became clear the matter would not be disposed of without a thorough investigation, even though within the same event a spokesman stated the police are in high demand because of the Olympics.
But American swimmers also involved in the “Lochtegate” narrative, Bentz and Conger, are being detained by Brazilian authorities as of Wednesday, as the investigation into their robbery story continues. Per media summaries from AP and elsewhere, law enforcement officials state there was a false account given to them. They have witnesses who state the gas station that the taxi pulled into had a vandalized bathroom. A door was broken and a soap dispenser was misused, it seems.
Guns were involved, however, according to the AP reporters, but these were used by the gas station security guards who did point them at the American swimmers. When asked at the press briefing about the security guards, the Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said during an afternoon news conference that there was no robbery against the swimmers. He also stated the authorities were guaranteed anonymity in the investigation.
“No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed.”
Ryan Lochte had apparently reported to media that he and teammates Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, and Jimmy Feigen were held at gunpoint/robbed after a night of partying after the swimming events. A judge then ordered the Americans’ passports held as the authorities continued the investigation.
But while “Lochtegate” continued in Rio, Ryan gave his accounts to media and then he returned to the U.S. before his teammates could also depart. According to The Guardian, a member of the British Olympic team was also allegedly robbed while enjoying “a night on the town.”
A law enforcement official now says that account by Lochte, per AP, was false. The official says two security guards pointed guns at the swimmers, but it’s still unclear what exactly happened during the encounter. Video has been presented. It may have been vandalism to a door and soap dispenser, something which could be easily paid for and replaced, it seems, and not require guns. Language difficulties were also likely a problem, per AP, as customers were sought who could translate.
Veloso said the guards who pulled their weapons did not use excessive force. Veloso is quoted as suggesting that the guards were justified because the American swimmers “were conducting themselves in a violent way.”
Clearly, Veloso was a bit upset at how the American swimmers conducted themselves. AP reports Veloso said Rio was “sullied.”
“Rio residents saw the name of their city sullied by this fantasy version (of events). It would be noble and worthy of them to apologize.”
A U.S. government inter-agency website, OSAC, managed by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, has posted a Crime and Safety Report which “focuses on U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro’s district.” They have given Rio a crime rating of “Critical.”
The report further stated that “[c]rime is the principal threat to visitors in Brazil. There is no evidence that Americans or U.S. government employees are being directly targeted for any criminal activity in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio de Janeiro Policia Militar (PMERJ) and Policia Civil (PCERJ) are proactive and responsive when dealing with all types of criminal activity in Rio de Janeiro.”
Mentioned also by the agency are the points that organized crime in Rio “… is controlled by major drug gangs, operating mainly in the favelas (slums). Low-level criminal activity continues to plague visitors and businesses alike. Drug-dealing, petty theft, and vehicle break-ins are common. Occasional incidents of violence have been reported as well. In addition, aggressive pan-handling has been identified in areas visited by foreign business travelers. ” Another point is made on the website as well.
“Assaults are common on beaches or in parks after dark.”
Scary warnings aside, it seems law enforcement’s portrayal of feelings have been aired now. The “Lochtegate” story will be a continuing saga as it likely has a few more chapters as the Olympic Games continue in Rio.
[Photo by Mauro Pimentel/AP Images]