Passport

Was American Swimmer Ryan Lochte Really Robbed in Rio?

A Brazilian judge issued an order preventing Lochte and another U.S. swimmer from leaving the country.

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte shows off his American flag grills and gold medal after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley at the London 2012 Olympics Aquatic Center.  (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte shows off his American flag grills and gold medal after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley at the London 2012 Olympics Aquatic Center. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Anyone watching Olympic athletes like Simone Biles and Usain Bolt break world records may have already forgotten that the Rio Olympics have been a taxonomy of disaster. Swimming pools have mysteriously turned green, an athlete has come down with dysentery after competing in the bacteria-infested water of Guanabara Bay, and athletes are getting robbed at gunpoint — most recently a group of U.S. swimmers, including gold medalists Ryan Lochte and James Feigen.

However, one Brazilian judge apparently doubts the story of the U.S. swimmers, who claim that while they were on their way home from a party, gunmen posing as police officers forced them to get out of their taxi and lie on the ground while the robbers took their wallets. The judge has issued an order that Lochte and Feigen not be allowed to leave the country.

The police investigating the crime say they have not found closed-circuit TV footage of the robbery, that the athletes arrived at the Olympic Village hours later than the time they claim to have been robbed, and that they did not look sufficiently shaken as they made their way through the village’s security in a video released by the Daily Mail.

Crime was already rampant in Rio de Janeiro before the Olympics began, but as it became clear the massive event would only benefit Brazil’s most wealthy, class tensions have flared. In the run-up to the games, approximately 60,000 people were displaced, even as Brazilian authorities failed to live up to promises to clean Guanabara Bay or construct adequate housing for the athletes.

Amid all this, rich international athletes might seem like good targets for thieves.

Lochte had already left the country by the time the judge issued his order, the New York Times reported. His lawyer rejected the idea that the athletes had invented details of the incident. We especially hope Lochte did not fabricate his response when the robber first produced a gun after the swimmer initially refused to get out of the car.

“I was like ‘whatever,’” Lochte told NBC.

Photo credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Megan Alpert is a fellow at Foreign Policy. Her previous bylines have included The Guardian, Guernica Daily, and Earth Island Journal. @megan_alpert

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