Armed men posing as police officers robbed US gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte and three other members of the US Olympics swimming team at gunpoint in a taxi hold-up in Rio de Janeiro after a party early on Sunday, Reuters reports.
Lochte told NBC’s Today Show he was returning to the Olympic village from a party hosted by the French Games delegation, with team mates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen, when armed men carrying police badges pulled them over.
The men told the swimmers to drop to the ground and demanded their money and belongings, but Lochte said he had initially refused to go to ground.
“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 took our money, he took my wallet — he left my mobile phone, he left my credentials,” Lochte said.
“All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Patrick Sandusky, spokesman of the US Olympics Committee, as saying.
The International Olympic Committee had initially denied the robbery occurred, Reuters said.
Security has been a major headache for organizers of South America’s first Olympics.
In addition to the swimmers, Swedish tourists were briefly abducted when they visited a slum, Portugal’s visiting education minister was robbed at knife point, bullets flew into the equestrian center and a Games bus was attacked with stones, the news agency said.
Lochte’s mother said the swimmer was unharmed but shaken.
“I think they’re all shaken up. There were a few of them,” Ileana Lochte told USA Today. “No, they were just, they just took their wallets and basically that was it.”
Fellow American swimmers Ryan Murphy and Nathan Adrian told reporters later that they felt security for the Games was adequate, despite the incident.
“Rio is an amazing city. There are going to be problems anywhere you go and we’ve been briefed on how to mitigate those risks as best possible,” Adrian told a news conference.
The Brazilian capital has long been plagued by violence, and local crime rates rose in the months leading up to the Games, amid widespread unemployment and shrunken police budget, the WSJ said.
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