Brazil police pull US swimmers from flight amid robbery probe

US Olympic swimmers, were stopped by Brazilian police from boarding a flight home, to be questioned about how they were robbed at gunpoint

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Brazilian police stopped two US Olympic swimmers from boarding a flight home on Wednesday to question them about how they and two team mates were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro at the weekend, after a judge raised doubts over their accounts.

Federal police also want to question US gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte, one of swimming’s most decorated Olympians, but he had already flown home to the United States on Monday, a police spokesman said.

The four swimmers have said they were robbed by gunmen while returning to the Athletes’ Village in a taxi in the early hours of Sunday after a party.

Police sources have said investigators have not found any evidence so far to back up their accounts.

A spokesman for the US Olympic Committee (USOC) confirmed the two men were taken from their flight.

“We can confirm that Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities,” said Patrick Sandusky, the USOC spokesperson.

“They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday.”

Earlier on Wednesday, a judge had ordered police to seize the passports of Lochte and Feigen to prevent them leaving the country, apparently unaware that Lochte had already left.

None of the swimmers face charges, the source said.

Taxi driver sought

On Sunday, Lochte told US media the robbers had carried police badges when they pulled the taxi over. They ordered them to drop to the ground and demanded their wallets and belongings, he said, adding he had initially tried to resist.

“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 told NBC. “He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”

In a fresh interview with NBC that has yet to be aired, Lochte had slightly modified an aspect of his story, Today Show host Matt Lauer said.

Instead of being pulled over by the men, Lochte said the swimmers stopped at a gas station to go to the bathroom when the robbers showed up. He also said a gun was not put to his head but was pointed in his direction.

“I think he feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization,” said Lauer.

On Wednesday, police issued an appeal for the taxi driver to come forward.

The judicial sources said the judge in her ruling pointed to an inconsistency between Lochte, who had said only one man was involved in the robbery, and his team mate, who testified that several men had robbed them.