Brazil police charge Ryan Lochte over false claims

The Olympic gold medallist had claimed he and three compatriots were robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Games.

Ryan Lochte
Top sponsors such as Speedo and Ralph Lauren have already abandoned Ryan Lochte [Reuters]

Brazilian police have charged US swimmer Ryan Lochte with making a false statement after he claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Lochte apologised last week for saying he and three of his swimming teammates – Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen – were robbed by armed men carrying police badges.

He had initially said the men carrying police badges told the swimmers to drop to the ground and demanded money and their belongings.

When he refused, one of the men placed the pistol against the swimmer’s head, and he then handed over his wallet, Lochte had said.

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“Ryan Lochte was charged with the crime of falsely reporting a crime,” Rio police said in a statement which added that the police had recommended the courts issue a summons for the Olympic gold medallist to be questioned.

“Once he is summoned, whether he turns up or not, the penalty is the same: one to six months’ prison,” the news website G1 Rio quoted police official Clemente Braune as saying.

“If he is summoned and does not turn up to the hearing, the trial will go ahead in the accused’s absence until the final sentence is given.”

Sponsors drop Lochte

Rio police chief Fernando Veloso had earlier told a news conference that the four swimmers fabricated the story when they tried to flee a petrol station after vandalising its bathroom.

A security guard confronted the swimmers and took out his pistol and made them sit on the ground. After paying around $50 in compensation for the damage, they left unharmed and returned to the athletes’ village.

Authorities had pulled Conger and Bentz off a plane about to leave Brazil for questioning related to the story but were later released after the pair retracted those claims.

Top sponsors such as Speedo and Ralph Lauren abandoned the US gold medallist this week.

“I’m taking full responsibility for it,” Lochte said in an interview broadcast last Saturday.

“I over-exaggerated that story and if I had never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Lochte could also face disciplinary action over the incident by USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies