WASHINGTON — The U.S. men’s swimming team had a dream performance at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics turn to a nightmare, as four athletes were robbed at gunpoint by fake police officers on Saturday night.
Veteran Olympian Ryan Lochte shared his story with NBC News, admitting that he failed to recognize the volatility of the situation until a gun was placed against his head. He was out on the town with teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen. Conger is from Rockville, Md.
“We got pulled over in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge,” Lochte recalled. “No lights, no nothing, just a police badge, and they pulled us over.
“They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground; they got down on the ground. I refused. I was like, ‘We didn’t do anything wrong, so I’m not getting down on the ground.'”
In January, the Mexico City-based Center for Public Security And Criminal Justice released a study showing that Brazil leads the world in cities plagued by violent crime.
Rio trails four American cities for total violent crime but is one of 22 Brazilian cities listed on the top-50 world cities for mortal gunshot wounds, per capita.
Lochte realized that he and his teammates were in danger of becoming part of that statistic.
“Then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,'” Lochte told NBC. “I put my hands up and I was like, ‘Whatever.’
“He took out money, he took my wallet; he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
He also left them with their medals.
Lochte followed up his interview with a statement posted to his social media accounts, thanking fans for their support.
“I want to thank all of my family, friends and the overwhelming support and concern I have received today,” the statement reads. “While it is true that my teammates and I were the victims of a robbery early Sunday morning, what is most important is that we are safe and unharmed.”
Lochte, 32, went on to confirm that his swimming career is likely not over, as he intends to compete for a spot on the team headed to the Tokyo Olympiad in 2020.
“I am honored to have represented the U.S. here at the Rio Olympics and to win Gold for my country alongside my teammates. I look forward to getting home so that I can begin to map out the plans for my future with an eye on representing #TeamUSA at the #2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
While the U.S. Olympic Committee has yet to release further details, they did confirm that the swimmers and international officials are working with the local police to investigate the incident.
Crime and disease were major concerns heading into the Rio Olympic games, with a number of prominent athletes from around the globe electing to drop out. Ryan Murphy, another swimmer not involved with the incident, confirmed that American athletes have been briefed by the team’s security detail on a regular basis.
While this is the most prominent crime affecting the games, it is certainly not the first.
Before competition even began, a fire drill provided cover for a robbery in the Olympic Village. Days later, the chief of security for the opening ceremonies was robbed at knifepoint. Two Australian rowing coaches were attacked and mugged. Stray bullets have landed in the equestrian arena.
According to the New York Times, Brazil’s Minister of Sport, Leonardo Picciani, said that athletes who leave the Olympic premises bear some responsibility for whatever happens.
“Security in the Games has been absolutely efficient,” he told news outlet Estadao. “The delegations have not had problems. Those who have bought tickets have not had problems.
“Certainly, no athletes have had problems in their places of accommodation, their training facilities and the athlete’s village.”