By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has apologized to Rio de Janeiro citizens and Brazilians alike for the damage that four of the country’s swimmers caused to the city when they claimed they were robbed at gunpoint last week. Authorities fined one of the athletes US$10,800 while allowing the other two to return to the U.S. on Thursday.
“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,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement released Thursday night.
According to Blackmun the USOC does not find the behavior of the four athletes acceptable, stressing that it does not represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members. The CEO said that the entity would be reviewing the incident and that additional penalties to the swimmers could be imposed after the Olympics are over.
The four athletes (Bentz, Conger, Feigen and Ryan Lochte) left France House early in the morning of August 14th in a taxi headed to the Olympic Village. They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where it is said that Lochte committed an act of vandalism.
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. Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave.
On Thursday night, the two swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, who were hauled off an U.S.-bound plane the day before were allowed to leave the country, after giving their statements to authorities.
Swimmer Jimmy Feigen signed an agreement where he would pay a fine of US$10,800 for supplying false statements to authorities. The fine is to be paid in the form of a donation to be given to a charity in Rio.
Feigen will have to pay the fine before he is able to retrieve his passport and leave the country. Ryan Lochte, the swimmer who apparently was the ‘mastermind’ behind this entire fiasco, left Brazil on Monday night.
According to Rio de Janeiro’s police chief, Fernando Veloso, the athletes involved should apologize to city residents, because they mocked the city’s public safety system. “They should apologize to Rio,” said Veloso.