Rio de Janeiro: Star American swimmer Ryan Lochte, who claimed that he was robbed at gunpoint in Rio with three teammates, apologised for his role in an incident that cast an embarrassing shadow over South America’s first Olympics.
The four US gold medal-winning swimmers hoped to draw a line under the scandal that erupted when Lochte went public with a shocking report of how they were mugged on their way early Sunday back from a party in Rio de Janeiro. The claim that a man posing as a police officer held them up and forced them to the ground sparked a media frenzy and pushed Brazilian Olympic authorities into an embarrassed apology.
But after police declared the story fabricated — saying all that happened was that the swimmers were subdued by security and made to pay compensation for drunken vandalisation of a gas station bathroom — the now discredited Lochte finally came clean, saying he should have been “more careful and candid.” “I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors and the hosts of this great event,” the 32-year-old Lochte said in a statement.
Late Thursday, US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun also apologised “to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal.” The International Olympic Committee will launch a disciplinary inquiry into the four swimmers, an IOC official told AFP yesterday. But Lochte’s lawyer, Jeffrey Ostrow, told USA Today that the swimmer was not admitting guilt or that he lied, and added that he still considered the security guard to have “extorted the money” for the smashed-up bathroom.
Drunken sportsmen ==Earlier this week, a Rio judge ordered the athletes’ passports to be confiscated so that they could not leave the country. Lochte had already left, but the other three — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen — underwent questioning in Rio police stations. On Thursday, police provided CCTV footage and other evidence about what really happened. The athletes, who appeared to be intoxicated, stopped in a taxi at a gas station to use the bathroom during the early hours of the morning. Lochte and the others then vandalised the area near the bathroom and, according to the manager there, urinated on the walls. Confronted by a security guard, they tried to leave. When the confrontation escalated, the security guard took out his pistol and made them sit on the ground. More (AFP)
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