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Police Sources: US Swimmers Could Be Charged With Vandalism

  • VOA News

Journalists surround American Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz, left, and Jack Conger, center, as they leave the police station at Rio International airport early Aug. 18, 2016.

Journalists surround American Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz, left, and Jack Conger, center, as they leave the police station at Rio International airport early Aug. 18, 2016.

Brazilian police say they might charge U.S. Olympic swimmers with vandalism and giving false testimony after the swimmers admitted they fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint.

Swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and James Feigen initially told police they were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning on their way back from a party outside Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro.

But two of the swimmers, Conger and Bentz, admitted to fabricating the story after they were detained at the airport late Wednesday while attempting to head back to the United States. The two boarded a flight back to the U.S. late Thursday after being questioned by authorities. Feigen, however, is still in Brazil hoping to get his passport back to leave the country, while Lochte returned to the United States Monday before any of the news emerged.

ABC News in the U.S. reported early Friday that Feigen will pay $11,000 to a charity in Brazil to settle the robbery dispute.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has apologized to Brazil for the false robbery claim.

Fernando Veloso, head of the civil police of Rio, told reporters Thursday that security cameras revealed the swimmers actually visited a gas station early Sunday morning, and that witnesses said they damaged a bathroom, were confronted by an armed guard and left before police arrived.

Brazil's Globo TV on Thursday aired security video of the swimmers showing them arriving at the gas station in a taxi, entering the building, leaving, and later sitting on the curb with their hands up, as instructed by one of the staff members at the gas station.

Veloso said the men left $20 and 100 Brazilian reals to pay for the damage to the bathroom, which included broken mirrors and damage to the door. The police chief also said Lochte was "physically outraged" during the incident and was "probably drunk." But he said Lochte could not be held solely responsible for the incident.

"That would be a premature assumption of guilt," Veloso said.

Despite the visible ire of the police, Rio Games organizers defended the swimmers, insisting, "Let's give these kids a break."

Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada told reporters, "They competed under gigantic pressure...They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on."

The gas station is close to Olympic Park, where the sporting events have been overshadowed over the past two weeks by a series of muggings and robberies, including incidents involving other athletes and two visiting government ministers.

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