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Team USA swimmer Gunnar Bentz apologized to the team, the U.S. Olympic Committee and his university Friday for his involvement in what had been portrayed as an armed robbery in Rio, a story that unraveled into an embarrassing controversy.
Bentz was one of four swimmers involved in an early morning incident Sunday that another swimmer, star Ryan Lochte, initially called an armed robbery by men who appeared to be police officers. Brazilian authorities said no robbery occurred.
In a statement posted on the University of Georgia athletics website, Bentz gave a lengthy account of what occurred Sunday morning. After Lochte pulled down a sign at a convenience store, Bentz said, two security guards approached them and ended up pulling guns on the swimmers.
"Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards. After Jack [Conger] and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made," Bentz said.
Lochte initially said they were pulled over and robbed by men posing as police officers, and one of the armed men put a gun against his forehead. He later said they weren't pulled over, and a gun was pointed in his direction.
Bentz said in the statement that he never gave any false statement to anyone about what transpired. He said he was never a suspect, and Brazilian authorities saw him as a witness.
"I want to offer a sincere apology to the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming, the extraordinary women and men of Team USA, and the University of Georgia," Bentz said in the statement.
"I regret this situation has drawn attention away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens," Bentz said.
He said that he and the other swimmers — Lochte, Conger, and Jimmy Feigen — went to a convenience store to use a restroom, and "there was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes."
Lochte then pulled a metal advertisement anchored to a wall to the ground, Bentz said. "I then suggested to everyone that we needed to leave the area and we returned to the taxi," Bentz said.
"Two men, whom I believe to have been security guards, then instructed us to exit the vehicle. No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guard's waistband," Bentz said.
"As Jimmy and Jack were walking away from the vehicle, the first security guard held up a badge to me and drew his handgun. I yelled to them to come back toward us and they complied. Then the second guard drew his weapon and both guards pointed their guns at us and yelled at us to sit on a nearby sidewalk," Bentz said.
It was then that Lochte got into the argument with the guards, Bentz said. A man Bentz believes was a customer then offered to translate, and was told the guards told them they needed to pay them in order to leave.
Bentz said he gave them $20 and Feigen gave 100 Reals, for about $50 USD total, and were allowed to leave.
"Videos of this situation have been emerging the last several days. However, I am confident that some video angles have not been shown that would further substantiate my account," Bentz said. "I also believe some scenes have been skipped over."
"Additionally, I would like to stress that our original taxi was not pulled over; the only occupants of the taxi were the four of us and the driver; and to my knowledge, there was no damage done to the door or the inside of the restroom," Bentz said.
Lochte apologized Friday for giving a misleading account and "for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning.”
Lochte returned to the U.S. Wednesday.
Bentz and Conger were removed from a flight in Rio Wednesday by authorities, but were eventually allowed to leave Brazil Thursday night after their attorney insisted they had nothing to do with Lochte’s story.
Feigen had his passport seized but made an $11,000 donation to a sports academy in Brazil in order to leave the country.
A spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee said late Friday that Feigen got his passport back and was headed home.
The International Olympic Committee confirmed Friday it has set up a disciplinary commission to look into the matter.