Rio Olympics: US swimmer Jimmy Feigen ‘settles robbery row’
19 August 2016
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
US Olympic swimmer Jimmy Feigen has agreed to pay nearly $ 11,000 to a Brazilian charity over his involvement in a dispute about an armed robbery.
He was one of four gold medallists, along with star Ryan Lochte, who hit the headlines after Mr Lochte said the group had been robbed in Rio.
CCTV footage later contradicted their story, showing the swimmers had vandalised a petrol station.
Mr Lochte left Brazil on Tuesday but Mr Feigen stayed behind and was detained.
The two other members of the group, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were pulled off a flight in Rio on Thursday night and questioned by police.
They deny any involvement in the false robbery claim and were allowed to leave for the US on a later flight.
Breno Melaragno, Feigen’s lawyer, said: “After a long deliberation, this agreement was reached… he will donate 35,000 reais ($ 10,800) to an institute, and with that the case is resolved.
“After this donation is done, his passport will be given back to him, and he will be free to return home.”
Mr Melaragno did not say which charity, or institute, would receive the donation.
The bizarre story began when Mr Lochte told a reporter that the four men were robbed at gunpoint by thieves disguised as police officers.
In a colourful description of the 14 August robbery, the swimming star said he refused to get on the ground despite having a gun pressed to his forehead.
But when police began to investigate, the evidence appeared to tell a different story. Rio’s civilian police chief Fernando Veloso has now ruled out any possibility that the crime occurred.
“No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed,” Mr Veloso said.
He told reporters that one or more of the athletes had instead vandalised a toilet in a petrol station and then offered to pay for the damage.
The Americans paid and left after armed security guards intervened, he said.
One guard had justifiably drawn his gun after one of the swimmers began behaving erratically, Mr Veloso added.
He warned that the swimmers, who had repeatedly changed their accounts of what happened, could “in theory” face charges of giving false testimony and vandalism.
But later on Thursday, the men’s lawyer Sergio Riera said Mr Bentz and Mr Conger had been allowed to leave the country by a special Olympic court.
Mr Feigen “provided a revised statement this evening (Thursday) with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible,” said the US Olympic Committee (USOC).
The USOC statement confirmed Mr Veloso’s version of events, and added that “the behaviour of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA”.
How the story evolved
Sunday 14 August
- Ryan Lochte’s mother tells US media her son has been robbed in Rio de Janeiro
- Mr Lochte gives an account of the events, saying he, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen were returning by taxi from a club in the early hours of the morning when they were robbed at gunpoint by men who forced the vehicle to pull over
- The swimmers do not report the incident to police or to the US Olympic Committee, and police officers only get involved after seeing TV reports
Monday 15 August
- Police investigating the case say there are inconsistencies in the men’s accounts
Tuesday 16 August
- CCTV footage emerges of the men’s return to the athletes’ village showing them laughing and joking, and handing over wallets and phones as they go through the security screens
Wednesday 17 August
- Ryan Lochte admits there were inaccuracies in his original account of being robbed at gunpoint, but vehemently denies making the story up
- Judge orders that the passports of the four men be seized before it emerges that Mr Lochte has already left for the US
- Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger taken off a US-bound plane at Rio de Janeiro airport
Thursday 18 August
- Brazilian police sources tell media outlets that the men invented a story about a robbery to disguise a dispute over a damaged bathroom door at a petrol station in Barra da Tijuca, 16km (10 miles) from the Olympic Park
- CCTV video emerges that appears to show the athletes being detained and ordered to sit on the ground
- Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger enter a Rio police station for questioning
- Head of Rio’s civil police emphatically denies a robbery took place, saying the case centred around an incident of vandalism and payment for damage
- Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger fly out of Rio, with James Feigen unable to travel as his passport is still held by the Brazilian authorities