After almost a week of mysterious reports, grainy security camera piss videos, and international flight drama, the New York Times today has a detailed report that pulls together what seems like the most definitive timeline of what happened with Ryan Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers in the early morning at a Rio gas station. It started with Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen at a party, which was hosted by old money horse people:
The uproar has its origins in a lavish Olympics party hosted by the French authorities over the weekend at the Sociedade Hípica, a riding club that is a bastion for Rio’s old-money elite. The four swimmers — Mr. Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz — stumbled out at dawn into a taxi for the ride across Rio to their lodgings in the Olympic Village.
The group left and stopped at the gas station about 6 a.m. This is where Lochte originally said they were pulled over and robbed at gunpoint by men pretending to be cops. But police said they had their doubts about the story, and today the station’s owner described them as defiantly peeing on the walls. The police chief told the Times that Lochte acted as a “kind of elder ringleader of the group.” The report also cites video footage, witnesses, and testimony from the swimmers as showing that “a security guard had brandished a gun after one or more of the athletes vandalized the gas station bathroom.” There is even a piece that does line up with one of Lochte’s explanations:
Still, the description of the security guard’s use of a gun dovetailed with Mr. Lochte’s follow-up explanations of the episode, raising the possibility that the men had felt during the confusion of the moment that they were being pressured to hand over their money.
Rio police chief Fernando Veloso said he couldn’t rule out that the guards did try some type of extortion. There also could have been confusion because the guards were off-duty prison guards, the Times reports. Lochte’s lawyer told the Times that, “there was a uniformed person with a gun who forced them to hand over their money,” and video backed up the “primary elements” of Lochte’s story.
After all this, someone called the police but, by the time they arrived, the swimmers were gone, the Times reports.
When the media reports started, the four swimmers spoke to U.S. State Department officials and they agreed to shut up. Almost immediately after the briefing, Lochte “walked across the street” and gave an interview to NBC where he told his side of the story, including the infamous anecdote about how he replied to a gun to his head by saying “Whatever.”
That set in motion the reports and mutating story that at one point had Veloso ripping into Lochte and the swimmers, denouncing their “fantastical version” of Rio. Lochte and Feigen then offered different accounts to authorities from Bentz and Conger, which led the Rio police to threaten charges against the former two swimmers. Making things more heated was the fact that Lochte and Feigen had already left the country. The clamor reached such a peak that a senior aide to Brazil’s interim president had to go on the record and deny that tensions could boil over and affect Brazil-U.S. relations:
“This episode will not in any way interfere in the relations between the U.S. and Brazil,” said Eliseu Padilha, the chief of staff for Brazil’s interim president, Michel Temer. Mr. Padilha added, “This could have happened with individuals of any other nationality.”
Veloso dropped a mysterious quote, saying that “At least one of the athletes may have had a motive for telling a story that wasn’t true.” But he did not elaborate beyond saying one of the leads came from a cab driver “who gave a ride to two Brazilian women who had left the same party and discussed having romantic encounters with the swimmers.”
An Rio Olympics organizing committee member laughed the incident off, but U.S. Swimming issued a strongly-worded statement condemning Lochte and the rest of the rowdy swimming boys:
“The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members,” said the statement, which was attributed to the organization’s chief executive, Scott Blackmun.
“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence.”
As for punishment, there might not be much. A judge told the Times that making a false claim in Brazil was “not that serious” and “results in very little punishment.”