As we reported yesterday, claims by Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte that he was robbed at gunpoint along with three fellow teammates has raised loads of speculation as to the veracity of his story, with Brazilian authorities trying to figure out what really happened on Sunday morning.
One thing that’s not helping matters: the fact that details about the alleged robbery keep changing in significant ways.
During a brief telephone interview with TODAY‘s Matt Lauer, Lochte contradicted his earlier account of the robbery, which he’d related to TODAY’s Billy Bush earlier this week:
The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and said ‘get down.’ I was like (puts hands up) I put my hands up. I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet.”
But speaking with Lauer, Lochte said the gun was aimed in his “general direction.”
He initially told Bush, “We got pulled over in our taxi and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge. No lights, no nothing, just a police badge. They pulled us over, they pulled out their guns.”
But in the version he told Lauer, the taxi wasn’t forced off the road. Instead, they’d stopped the taxi at a gas station to use the bathroom, and that’s when they were robbed.
Speaking to Bob Costas, Lauer confirmed the story had changed:
“When he talked to me tonight, he said, ‘that’s when the guy pointed the gun in my direction and cocked it.’ And I pointedly said to him, ‘you had said before it was placed on your forehead and cocked.’ He said, ‘No, that’s not exactly what happened.’ And I think he feels it was more of a traumatic mis-characterization. I think people listening at home might feel that was embellishment at the time, but that’s up to people to decide.”
As BBC News reports, CCTV footage featuring the four swimmers — Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger, and Gunnar Bentz — has become key evidence in the investigation, particularly since the athletes appear totally relaxed as they pass through a metal detector and take items from their pockets.
As one Brazilian judge noted, “They arrived with their psychological and physical integrity unshaken.”
Lochte is currently back in the states, but, as CNN reports, teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their flight from Rio de Janeiro to the United States on Wednesday night. They’ve been ordered to stay in Brazil for questioning as authorities try to make sense of the various claims. and have been ordered to stay in Brazil.
Lochte’s attorney Jeff Ostrow thinks the athletes are being unfairly scrutinized and taken advantage of by Brazilian police, telling CNN:
When you have one of America’s athletes who comes out and said something happened to him that happens to people there every single day, that doesn’t look good for a country trying to have a successful Olympics.”
Nevertheless, perhaps the shadiest aspect of this unwieldy story is the following soundbite by Billy Bush, explaining why he ultimately believes Lochte:
I spoke to him about four hours after he got into Olympic Village — or five hours — they’ve been out all night long,” he said. “He’s not the kind that can weave a brilliant tale when he’s hasn’t been out all night long, pardon me. (Emphasis ours.) The fact that he told this story so mellifluously makes me think, well, he could not have invented the whole thing.”