The story surrounding four American swimmers – led by veteran Olympian Ryan Lochte – and what did or didn’t happen following a night of drinking in Rio has become so convoluted that it’s been nicknamed “LochteGate.”
NBC’s Al Roker and “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush even clashed on the subject during a live broadcast.
But on Friday afternoon, a statement was released by U.S. swimmer Gunnar Bentz, who was with Lochte, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen that night. Bentz claimed that no one – not Lochte, not the Rio police, not the Olympic Committee – has yet told the truth about what happened.
Bentz began by pointing out that he was not detained in Brazil as a suspect, but rather, as a witness. He also noted that at no time had he given a false statement. But then he listed a few things that he believed to be missing from the event’s news coverage.
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He began by confirming that they had stopped at the gas station in search of a restroom:
“After attending an event with several swimmers from different nations, I left in a taxicab along with U.S. swimmers Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte around 6 a.m. On the way back to the Olympic Village, we pulled into a convenience store to use the restroom. There was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes.
There was a locked door out back and I did not witness anyone breaking it open. I am unsure why, but while we were in that area, Ryan pulled to the ground a framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall. I then suggested to everyone that we needed to leave the area and we returned to the taxi.”
And then he noted that there were guns involved, though none were pointed at anyone’s head:
“Two men, whom I believe to have been security guards, then instructed us to exit the vehicle. No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guard’s waistband.
As Jimmy and Jack were walking away from the vehicle, the first security guard held up a badge to me and drew his handgun. I yelled to them to come back toward us and they complied. Then the second guard drew his weapon and both guards pointed their guns at us and yelled at us to sit on a nearby sidewalk.”
He also confirmed that the four were told that they would not be allowed to leave the gas station unless they paid the security guards:
“Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards. After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made.
A man that I believe to be a customer approached us and offered to help as he spoke both English and Portuguese. Understandably, we were frightened and confused during this time. Through the interpreter, one of the guards said that we needed to pay them in order to leave. I gave them what I had in my wallet, which was a $20 bill, and Jimmy gave them 100 Reals, which is about $50 in total.
They lowered the guns and I used hand gestures to ask if it was okay to leave and they said yes. We walked about a block down the street and hailed another taxi to return to the Village.”
Bentz’s story has already been disputed by DJ Fernando Deluz, who told the Daily Mail that he was the customer who aided the Americans by translating what the security guards were saying:
“There was no aggression. Pointing a gun at them? Never. There was nothing like that.
[The Americans] started saying, ‘No police. Please, don’t call police!’
They made a lot of mistakes. But the worst was that they lied about what happened.”
Bentz returned to Atlanta Friday after being questioned by authorities, and his statement comes on the heels of the apology drafted by teammate Ryan Lochte.
He concluded by noting that he hoped additional video would emerge – as he believed that it would verify his account – and that he had learned a lesson: “In everything I do, I am representing my family, my country and my school. I will not take that responsibility lightly.”
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