By MICHELLE MARCHANTE
Six-time Olympic gold-medalist, Ryan Lochte, and three other members of the U.S. men’s swimming team were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Rio.
According to a statement by USOC spokesperson, Patrick Sandusky, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Felgen and Ryan Lochte left a club known as France House in a taxi early Sunday morning and were returning to the Olympic Village when they were stopped by armed robbers. Posing as police officers, the armed robbers demanded their money and other personal belongings but Sandusky says that the athletes are “safe and cooperating with authorities.”
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte said to NBCNews. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground-they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so-I’m not getting down on the ground.”
One of the men, according to Lochte, then pulled out a gun, cocked it, placed it on his forehead and ordered him to “get down.” Lochte then put his hands up.
“He took our money, he took my wallet-he left my cell phone, he left my credentials,” Lochte said.
After news of the robbery was released, athletes confirmed in a news conference late Sunday afternoon that they have felt absolutely safe and secure during their time in Rio for the games.
“I have a team personally who are always looking out for everything,” Michael Phelps, one of the most high-profile Olympic athletes, said during the conference. “USOC and USA Swimming are always making sure we’re as protected as we can be.”
“I’ve been to Brazil multiple times. I’ve felt very safe every time I’ve been here,” he said.
The city has been on high alert in terms of security and safety for the games, with 85,000 soldiers, police and security officers patrolling the city to ensure the safety of the Olympic athletes and the tourists who have come to Rio but crime-related incidents like this one have still been occurring.
As The New York Times reports, the chief of security was mugged at knife-point on the night of the opening ceremony, two coaches for Australia’s rowing team were attacked and robbed in the Ipanema neighborhood, a security officer for the Olympics was killed in a dangerous neighborhood, a bus carrying members of the media was attacked and multiple bullets have landed in the equestrian venue.
“Rio is an amazing city,” Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian said during the conference. “There are going to be problems anywhere you go. We have been briefed about how to mitigate those risks as well as possible…”
The Civil Police in Rio, according to USA Today, are investigating the recent robbery.
What is still unclear at this time though is why Lochte, the USOC and Lochte’s personal trainer had originally denied that the robbery had occurred until after Lochte’s mother confirmed the incident to USA Today Sports.
Michelle Marchante is a guest contributor at The Buzz Insider and the Assistant Opinion Director at FIUSM. She is a writer, reader and filmmaking enthusiast. Currently, she is studying to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism and is also working on her second novel. Connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
Image retrieved from Flickr.