The four U.S. Olympic swimmers who claimed they were victims of an armed robbery in Rio were actually the ones causing trouble that night, and they fabricated their account of the incident, Rio's police chief said Thursday.
Although officials did admit that local security guards pulled a gun on Ryan Lochte and his fellow swimmers and extracted about $50 in cash from them.
The U.S. Olympic Committee apologized to Brazil for the swimmers' behavior Thursday night, calling the incident a "distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence."
"Right now, as we speak, what the police can affirm — there was no robbery the way it was reported or claimed by the athletes," Fernando Veloso, chief of the Rio civil police, said in Portuguese at a news conference Thursday. "They were not victims of the criminal actions that they claimed they were."
Veloso said surveillance video and witness accounts confirmed that the swimmers, including Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, damaged a bathroom door at a gas station in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood before they returned to the athletes' village early Sunday.
The athletes had told officials and media outlets, including TODAY, that they were robbed at gunpoint. But as inconsistencies in their story emerged, speculation rose.
According to Veloso, the swimmers took a taxi from a club to the gas station and then vandalized the restroom, breaking the mirror, a soap dispenser and other things.
When local security guards saw them, they told the cab driver not to let them leave, but the athletes insisted on going, Veloso said.
One guard then used a "firearm to control" the swimmers — and demanded they pay for the vandalism, he said.
A witness who spoke English and Portuguese came up and translated between the two parties, explaining that the athletes had to pay for the damage before they could leave, Veloso said.
The Americans paid $20 U.S. plus 100 Brazilian reals ($30 U.S.) to the guards, according to the account.
Veloso said investigators would look into whether the guards overstepped their bounds, but he said it didn't appear the Americans' claims were accurate.
"We don't have anything that could say there was any kind of excess" force used, Veloso said. "Their claim that they were a victim of an assault or a robbery or any kind of violence is not true."
As for the Americans, they could be face charges of false testimony and vandalism.
"We need to understand what each athlete did in order to understand what the crime was, if there was a crime," Veloso said.
Veloso described Lochte as "very angry" and "intoxicated" after the incident. The gas station guard pulled out his gun because he was nervous about the athletes' size and their aggressive behavior while intoxicated, he said.
The FBI is following the investigation.
Two of the swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were pulled off a plane late Wednesday to be questioned by police over the encounter at the Shell gas station.
Their teammate, Jimmy Feigen, has remained in Brazil and is cooperating with authorities, along with Bentz and Conger, Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, or USOC, said earlier Thursday.
"All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio," Sandusky said.
Late Thursday, the USOC issued a strongly worded statement calling the swimmers' behavior "not acceptable," saying it "does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members."
"On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence," the committee said.
Lochte, 32, spoke with police before leaving Brazil this week. His lawyer has said he gave police a statement as representatives from the U.S. State Department, the USOC and the FBI observed. Lochte signed the statement to attest to its truthfulness, his attorney added.
Bentz and Conger have given statements to police, the USOC said Thursday night, stressing that it hadn't seen the full statements. Bentz's and Conger's passports were returned, and they were allowed to leave Rio, according to the USOC.
At the Rio airport, Sergio Riera, a lawyer for Bentz and Conger, told reporters that his clients "were simply heard as witnesses."
"They went to the police station when they were called and they gave their testimony and helped the investigation, and now they've been awarded with being able to go home," Riera said.
Feigen, meanwhile, revised his statement Thursday night "with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible," according to the Olympic committee, which said nothing about Lochte's status.
Brazilian judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop said Feigen's account of the confrontation contradicted Lochte's, according to the court's statement.
The men also said the incident took place on the way home from a club, which they left at 4 a.m. But security video showed them leaving at a different time, the judge said.
De Cnop added that Lochte told police that there was one robber, while Feigen said there were more, one of whom had a gun.
Lochte told TODAY's Matt Lauer in a telephone interview Wednesday night that he returned from Rio after no one told him he should stay in Brazil. He said he told authorities he would remain cooperative.
On the night of the incident, Lochte said, they had stopped at a gas station and then got back in the taxi. The taxi driver did not move, and it was then that two robbers with guns and badges approached the car and ordered the swimmers out of the vehicle and onto the ground, he told Lauer.
Lauer said he asked Lochte about the skepticism that his story may have been concocted as part of a cover-up.
"He strongly denied that, said it's absolutely not the case," Lauer said.
The potential charges the swimmers face, if police believe they gave false or misleading statements to authorities, can carry up to six months in jail. Under Brazil's constitution, ratified in 1988, they have the right to remain silent.