A Brazilian judge has ordered US swimmers Ryan Lochte and James Feigen not to leave the country after doubts emerged over their claims of being robbed at gunpoint in Rio. However, Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medallist had already left Rio before the order was issued.
It is not immediately known if Feigen is still in Rio. Lochte is shown arriving in the US on twitter postings.
Lochte had claimed that he and three other swimmers — Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz —were robbed at gunpoint on Sunday 14 August after leaving a party by men who had identified themselves as police officers.
The New York Times reported that investigators have not found evidence corroborating their account, according to local news reports, which prompted the judge to issue the order to impound their passports.
"You can see the supposed victims arriving without signs of being physically or psychologically shaken, even joking among themselves," Judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop said in a statement. He was referring to a video of the swimmers arriving back at the Olympic Village after the party.
According to Patrick Sandusky, the spokesman for the US Olympic Committee, Brazilian police had been looking for both Lochte and Feigen on Wednesday (17 August) morning to collect their passports. But both of the athletes were not at the Olympic Village, he said.
"The swim team moved out of the village after their competition ended, so we were not able to make the athletes available, Additionally, as part of our standard security protocol, we do not make athlete travel plans public and therefore cannot confirm the athletes' current location," Sandusky said.
Lochte rejects claims of fabricating robbery story
Lochte's lawyer, Jeff Ostrow, rejected any claims that the US swimmers could have fabricated details of the robbery, describing them as efforts by Brazilian officials to deflect criticism of problems at the Rio Games, New York Times reports.
Ostrow said: "The country has a dark cloud over it for a million and one reasons, from their economy to their crime to their management of the Olympics," said Ostrow, who had attended the Games last week. He said that Lochte had cooperated throughout with the Brazilian authorities and "stands behind his statement."
Lochte told NBC's Today show that several men pulled out guns and that one of them took his money and wallet but did not take his mobile phone and credentials. He also told USA Today that the four swimmers initially did not inform the US Olympic Committee about the incident as they were worried they would get into trouble.
Both Lochte and Feigen were said to have told Brazilian investigators that they left the party at Club France, a temporary venue set up to promote France during the Games at around 4am on Sunday morning. However, video cameras showed the swimmers leaving at 5.50am, about an hour before they arrived at the Olympic Village, Extra, a local Rio newspaper said.
The investigators have not been able to track the taxi driver who took the swimmers back to the Olympic Village. Both men said they could not remember the colour of the taxi they took, nor the exact place where the incident took place.
Confusion over the incident
When news first broke out about the robbery, there were conflicting news reports.
Lochte first told the US TV network NBC about the incident, but International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams dismissed the robbery reports as "absolutely not true." However, the US Olympic Committee later confirmed the swimmers' stories.
Lochte is the second most decorated male swimmer in Olympic history, with his 12 medals tally putting him behind his teammate Michael Phelps, who has clinched 22 gold medals so far.
The Rio Olympic organisers have apologised to Lochte over the incident. "We obviously regret that the violence has got so close to the athletes. We have requested the security authorities that they need to make sure that everybody is safe everywhere in the city. We apologise to those involved and once again, we regret the fact that violence is an issue at these games, Mario Andreda, the Communications Executive Director is reported to have said, according to AFP.