By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Media reports of the robbery of four U.S. Olympians during the early hours of Sunday morning were confirmed by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) on Sunday afternoon. The four athletes were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi, while going back to the Olympic Village after a party at France’s hospitality house.
“According to four members of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte), they left France House early Sunday morning in a taxi headed for the Olympic Village,” said the statement issued by the USOC.
Adding “Their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings. All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities.”
Earlier in the day Brazil’s Sports Ministry tried to put the blame on the U.S. swimming athletes for being out and about in the city at an ‘inappropriate hour’, and defended the city’s security system for the Games.
“Security at the Olympics has been absolutely efficient. The delegations and athletes have participated in competitions without any problems. Those who bought their ticket and went to the games have gone without any problems. We cannot measure [security] by an incident that has occurred outside the competition venues, outside the appropriate time. Certainly no athlete had problems in their local competition, in their training routine and in their time in the Olympic village,” Picciani told reporters.
There have however, been a number of reports of tourists being robbed throughout the city, including Portugal’s Education Minister and the president of the Moscow Swimming Confederation in Ipanema and Australian Paralympic athletes in Flamengo.
The Brazilian government announced at the beginning of the Olympic Games that it was putting more than 85,000 security agents, including the Armed Forces, to patrol the major competition venues and tourist hotspots in Rio.