US Swimmer Gunnar Bentz Details Account of Claimed Robbery in Rio
Bentz provided a statement after he returned to the U.S.
— -- One of the U.S. Olympic swimmers caught up in the scandal over a fabricated claim of a robbery during the games in Rio de Janeiro, offered a detailed account of the events that happened that night while apologizing for his actions, according to a statement from the University of Georgia.
While offering a "sincere apology," Gunnar Bentz, a student at the University of Georgia, maintained that he was never a suspect in the case and "never made a false statement to anyone at any time" in the incident, also involving teammate and medalist Ryan Lochte, the statement says.
Bentz, who was pulled off a flight in Brazil on Wednesday, but was allowed to return home after speaking to police, said that he, Lochte and two other swimmers, Jack Conger and James Feigen, stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom after leaving an event with swimmers from different nations.
"There was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes," Bentz said, according to the statement, which he said was consistent with what he told police.
Contrary to what police said, Bentz maintains that he didn't see anyone break open a door at the gas station.
"I am unsure why, but while we were in that area, Ryan pulled to the ground a framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall," Bentz said.
He then said that two men, believed to be security guards, asked them to get out of their taxi.
"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," Bentz said. "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."
"Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards. After Jack 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," he added.
After that, Bentz says that a customer translated for them and they were told they needed to pay money in order to leave. After handing over $20 and 100 reals, "they lowered the guns and I used hand gestures to ask if it was okay to leave and they said yes."
Lochte had claimed that he and his teammates were held up at gunpoint, saying that one of the assailants cocked a gun and put it against his forehead.
But police in Rio say that they were not robbed. Cops in the city also said that one or more of the Olympians broke mirrors and damaged other things in a bathroom in the gas station.
Police had recommended charges of making a false report for Lochte and Feigen, but Feigen donated $11,000 to charity as part of a plea bargain in order to avoid prosecution. He departed for the United States Friday night after getting his passport back.
In a statement Friday, Lochte apologized for his behavior and for "not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning."
Lochte said it was "traumatic" to "be out late with your friends in a foreign country -- with a language barrier -- and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.
The IOC is looking to set up a disciplinary committee in the case and Lochte and his teammates have been admonished by the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming.