US Swimmers Pulled Off Flight Home Due to Robbery Investigation

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2016

Jul 11, 2016; Chamblee, GA, USA; Gunnar Bentz during practice at Dynamo Swim Club. Mandatory Credit: Kevin D. Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin D. Liles-USA TODAY Sports

The saga of whether Ryan Lochte and other American swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics took another turn Wednesday, as Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were reportedly taken off their plane flight home.

According to Peter Alexander of NBC News, the two swimmers who said they were with Lochte when the alleged robbery occurred were “pulled off their plane at [the] Rio airport.”

Alexander clarified that Lochte is in the United States but said “[Bentz] and [Conger] were not named by [the] Brazilian judge who wanted Lochte and [Jimmy] Feigen’s passports seized, but now they are in limbo.”

United States Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky released a statement on the incident: 

Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were detained Wednesday night shortly before their flight was scheduled to depart from Rio. They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday. James Feigen is also communicating with local authorities and intends to make further statements regarding the incident on Thursday as well. We will continue to provide updated information as it is appropriate.

Sergio Viegas, attorney for Bentz and Conger, told the Associated Press the two swimmers would not be allowed to leave Brazil until they testified about the incident. 

Feigen did not show up for a flight he had checked in for, either, according to freelance journalist Philip Hersh.

Pat Forde and Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports said Lochte and Feigen previously filed a police report in Rio that stated they were robbed at gunpoint.

Forde and Adelson wrote that Bentz and Conger cleared customs before Brazilian authorities took them off the plane that was set to fly to the United States. They also noted the aforementioned police report "started a firestorm and further heightened security concerns” and that Brazilian officials have questioned Lochte’s allegations in the past few days. 

While USA Today (via Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports) reported Lochte was back in his home country when the Brazilian judge ordered his passport seized, sources said Feigen is still in Brazil, although it was unknown whether he was in custody, per Forde and Adelson.

The four swimmers said they were in a taxi and stopped by men dressed as security guards who subsequently robbed them, per Kaduk. He added that authorities in Rio have not found the taxi driver or corroborated any witness accounts of the incident.

However, Lochte said he and his fellow swimmers did not initially report the incident out of fear they would get in trouble, per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today.

The Daily Mail published security footage of the swimmers returning to the athletes village “several hours” after the alleged robbery. The four swimmers have their phones in the footage “but are in such a hurry to get inside they forget to remove their belts and watches before filing through metal detectors.”

Lochte won a gold medal in Rio as part of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay team and has 12 Olympic medals in his career. Bentz and Conger also won gold for that relay effort.

Feigen won gold in Rio as part of the 4x100-meter freestyle relay team.