An $11,000 Charitable Donation Is Saving One U.S. Swimmer From Brazilian Prison

Jimmy Feigen is paying a Brazilian charity $11,000 to avoid facing charges for making up a robbery story to police.

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 04:Jimmy Feigen of the USA looks on during day two of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 4, 2014 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 04:Jimmy Feigen of the USA looks on during day two of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 4, 2014 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 04:Jimmy Feigen of the USA looks on during day two of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 4, 2014 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

If anyone has benefited from the elaborate story U.S. Olympic swimmers fabricated about being robbed in Rio de Janeiro this week, it’s the Reaction Institute, a Brazilian charity that provides exercise opportunities to teach young people social responsibility. 

That’s because after four U.S. swimmers broke down a gas station door after a late night of partying, then urinated on the establishment’s walls, then inexplicably concocted a lie that they had been robbed at gunpoint by men posing as police, Brazilian authorities caught them in their lie.

Now one of them, Jimmy Feigen, is paying the charity $11,000 under a Brazilian law that his attorney, Breno Melaragno Costa, said allows him to be cleared of a minor offense by agreeing to make a charitable donation. He is reportedly being charged with providing false testimony to police.

If anyone has benefited from the elaborate story U.S. Olympic swimmers fabricated about being robbed in Rio de Janeiro this week, it’s the Reaction Institute, a Brazilian charity that provides exercise opportunities to teach young people social responsibility. 

That’s because after four U.S. swimmers broke down a gas station door after a late night of partying, then urinated on the establishment’s walls, then inexplicably concocted a lie that they had been robbed at gunpoint by men posing as police, Brazilian authorities caught them in their lie.

Now one of them, Jimmy Feigen, is paying the charity $11,000 under a Brazilian law that his attorney, Breno Melaragno Costa, said allows him to be cleared of a minor offense by agreeing to make a charitable donation. He is reportedly being charged with providing false testimony to police.

According to ABC News, Costa said that once Feigen pays the charity, he will have his passport returned and will be allowed to leave the country.

The scandal has rattled and embarrassed the U.S. Olympic Committee, after the swimmers first claimed to have been targeted by criminals, then later appeared in footage from the gas station that shows them damaging the property. They were eventually pulled out of a taxi by security officers who had them put their hands above their heads and sit on a curb. According to Brazilian police, a security officer did pull his gun on the athletes because he had felt threatened by their raucous behavior.

Afterward, Ryan Lochte, one of the standout American superstars, went so far as to go to the Brazilian police and claim that a man posing a police officer put a gun to his forehead and demanded the whole group’s wallets. Officials in Rio quickly claimed that was inaccurate. “There was no robbery as the swimmers described it,” Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said at a news conference this week.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, which initially stood by the swimmers’ claims they had been robbed at gunpoint, later verified that the Brazilian police report was correct.

“An argument ensued between the athletes and two armed gas station security staff, who displayed their weapons, ordered the athletes from their vehicle, and demanded the athletes provide a monetary payment,” the committee said in a statement, adding that the swimmers did pay the guards a small amount of cash, reportedly for damages they caused to the station.

On Thursday, American swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were finally allowed to leave Brazil after authorities had pulled them from their Wednesday flight. They were bid farewell the next day by a booing crowd that greeted them at the airport, calling them “liars” and “fakes.”

On Friday, Lochte finally apologized for his behavior throughout the incident.

“Regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event,” he said.

Lochte managed to fly home from Rio before the investigation was in full swing. By the time police ordered that he stay put in the country, he was already home in the United States.

Photo credit: FRANCOIS NEL/Getty Images

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.