U.S. says sorry as swimmers leave Brazil to jeers

Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:42am EDT
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By Rodrigo Viga and Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Two U.S. Olympic swimmers flew home from Brazil on Thursday after a local crowd jeered them, calling them "liars" and "fakes", and police accused them of fabricating a story about being robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Games.

Their departure marked what the U.S. Olympic team hopes will be the closing stages of an incident that has embarrassed the host city, angered the police and government, unleashed a storm on social media, and dominated news coverage of South America's first Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) issued an apology after the departure of Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, who were among four U.S. swimmers shown to have lied about being stopped by gunmen posing as police in the early hours of Sunday.

"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 chief Scott Blackmun said in a statement.

Apart from Bentz and Conger, the incident involved gold medalist Ryan Lochte, one of America's most decorated swimmers and the most outspoken about the robbery, and Jimmy Feigen, who also won a gold medal in Rio.

Lochte returned to the United States on Monday. Feigen revised his police statement on Thursday in the hope of securing the release of his passport, the USOC said.

ABC News reported early on Friday that Feigen had agreed to pay $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to avoid prosecution in the case, citing his attorney Breno Melaragno Costa.

The outlet said the dispute would be settled, his passport returned, and Feigen would be allowed to leave the country once payment was made to the Reaction Institute charity.   Continued...

Security video shows three U.S. Olympic swimmers returning to their taxi at a gasoline station where they were accused by staff of having caused damage, in Rio de Janeiro, August 14, 2016.  Courtesy Globo TV/Handout via Reuters