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Video undermines US Olympic swimmers' 'mugging' story

Doubt has been cast over the testimonies of four US Olympians who claimed they were mugged at gunpoint in Rio.

Updated 8.10pm

ALLEGATIONS THAT US swimmer Ryan Lochte invented a story about him and three teammates being mugged at gunpoint in Rio have been strengthened by video footage showing them in a gas station altercation.

The controversy took a dramatic new twist today after security camera footage from a gas station was shown on Brazil’s Globo television.

Rio Olympics Lochte Robbery Source: Mauro Pimentel/PA Images

This came hours after two of the swimmers were hauled off a plane about to leave Rio de Janeiro for the United States and taken in for questioning.

The video footage appears to support police accusations that the medal-winning swimmers vandalised a gas station bathroom where they had stopped off after all-night partying. They were then detained by a security guard.

The four swimmers are seen in the video getting out of a taxi after a man identified as the security guard approaches. Later they are seen being made to sit on the ground.

Brazil’s G1 site quoted police as saying the athletes broke the gas station’s bathroom door and started a confrontation with the armed security guard, who pulled out his weapon and made them wait for police to arrive.

This version of events is a far cry from 32-year-old Lochte’s claims.

The swimmer, one of the most visible faces of the Olympics and winner of six gold medals, told media that the four had been robbed at gunpoint by a man claiming to be a policeman.

His report caused the Olympic authorities huge embarrassment, highlighting security worries at an Olympics where Brazil has deployed 85,000 police and soldiers — double the number used in the 2012 London games.

However, the authorities soon raised doubts over the veracity of the allegation and the swimmers could face charges of filing a false claim with police.

Yesterday a judge ordered the swimmers to be detained and their passports confiscated.

Rio Olympics Swimming Lochte (right) with fellow US Olympian Michael Phelps. Lochte made the original claim that he was the victim of an armed mugging. Source: Associated Press

Lochte had already flown back to the United States. However, two other athletes — Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz — were removed by police from a plane just about to take off late Wednesday.

The fourth, James Feigen, was also still in Brazil.

“The three US Olympic swimmers … are cooperating with authorities and in the process of scheduling a time and place today to provide further statements to the Brazilian authorities,” Patrick Sandusky, spokesman for the US Olympic Committee, said.

Lochte’s lawyer, agent and father did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Early yesterday, Judge Keyla Blank “issued warrants for searches and the seizure of the passports for the US swimmers,” a statement from her office said.

“With this, they are banned from leaving the country,” the statement said.

Rio Olympics Lochte Robbery American Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz, centre, and Jack Conger, right, leave the police station at Rio International Airport. Source: Mauro Pimentel

The court order was the latest twist in a story of a supposedly terrifying incident that embarrassed Olympic authorities and ramped up the fear factor for hundreds of thousands of tourists in Rio at South America’s first Olympics.

Now, Brazilian officials are suggesting that the US swimmers may have made up their account – and could face charges for filing a false report.

Did the mugging happen?

Lochte said he and three teammates were held up by muggers posing as police as they left a late night party in central Rio.

Reports of the incident were immediately plunged into confusion when the International Olympic Committee denied that anything had happened.

Lochte, however, gave interviews describing the supposed robbery in detail and Brazilian Olympic authorities later issued a public apology for the security slip up.

The apparent crime touched a nerve in Rio. In addition to multiple incidents of thefts from Olympic athletes or journalists, a Portuguese government minister was mugged in the swish Leblon district.

Lochte said he had a gun put to his forehead in the robbery, when the swimmers’ taxi was pulled over by criminals who forced them to lie on the ground and stole money and other items.

According to Lochte:

The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said: ‘Get down’. He took our money, he took my wallet – he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.

However, Olympic officials have said police are still looking for key witnesses, including the driver of the cab the swimmers said they had been in. Police issued another appeal for the driver to contact them yesterday.

And Blank’s office said the judge was probing “possible inconsistencies in the swimmers’ stories”.

These included different accounts of how many assailants there were.

Another point raising doubts over the swimmers’ stories was their behaviour, caught on security cameras, as they returned to their hotel after the supposed robbery, the judge said.

“It’s noticeable that the victims arrived back physically and mentally unshaken, even joking with each other,” the judge said.

The video in question, posted on a number of websites, shows the four swimmers passing through an X-ray machine, taking what could be wallets or cellphones from their pockets. At one moment Lochte playfully hits a teammate with his Olympic accreditation.

Otherwise, the clip shows little out of the ordinary.

The alleged robbery is one of a number of armed thefts of athletes competing at the games.

The latest such incident has been reported by The Guardian and says that a member of the British Olympic team being held at gunpoint when celebrating in central Rio. The athlete in question is said to be in shock but not hurt.

© – AFP 2016 

Read: IOC denies Ryan Lochte was robbed at gunpoint in Rio

Read: US swimmer Ryan Lochte ordered to stay in Brazil by judge

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