Taxi carrying the 4 was stopped by thieves posing as police, USOC says
RIO DE JANEIRO—Four members of the U.S. swim team, including medalist Ryan Lochte, were robbed at gunpoint in Rio on Saturday night, according to a USOC spokesman.The four swimmers—Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Lochte—left a party at the France House near Rio’s lagoon early Sunday morning in a taxi, and were headed back to the Olympic Village in the western part of the city, according to the spokesman.
“Their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. “All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities.”
The IOC had earlier on Sunday denied that Lochte had been a victim.
Lochte is one of the U.S. team’s most familiar faces, having surged to stardom and a high media profile in the 2012 London Olympics. The incident amplifies the debate over the safety of both athletes and spectators here in Rio, a crime-ridden city that is the first in South America to host the Olympics. There have already seen several unsettling crime incidents involving athletes, coaches and spectators.
Flávio Perez, the spokesman for Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira, who is a friend of Lochte’s, says both Pereira and Lochte were at the party on Saturday night. Pereira left with his wife, and later Lochte was robbed.
Perez wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Lochte, but said that Pereira called Lochte the next morning to make sure the American swimmer was all right.
A spokesman for Rio’s military police said they weren’t aware of the incident but would investigate. Rio’s civil police, and Brazil’s ministry of justice and ministry of defense, also responsible for Olympics security, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Several athletes have been robbed in Rio before and during the Games.
In June, two members of Australia’s Paralympic Sailing Team were robbed at gunpoint while riding bikes in a park near their hotel. Three members of Spain’s sailing team were robbed at gunpoint while walking to breakfast in the hip neighborhood of Santa Teresa in May.
Athletes from Australia were also robbed of belongings during a fire drill at the Athletes’ Village before the Olympics began. And a Belgian judo athlete who’d recently won a bronze medal was robbed on the beach in Rio last week, though the attackers didn’t make off with the medal.
Rio has long been plagued by violence, and local crime rates rose in the months leading up to the Games, as a recession drove widespread unemployment and chipped at police budgets.
For the Games, financially strained Rio state asked the country’s military to take over local security earlier than planned and to stay after the Olympics.
The Brazilian government deployed a combined security force of police and military numbering roughly 85,000 personnel.
Source: The Wall Street Journal