Olympic gold medallist Ryan Lochte charged with filing false robbery report
Published 26/08/2016 | 07:34
Brazilian police have charged American swimmer Ryan Lochte with filing a false robbery report over a drunken incident during the Rio Olympics.
A police statement said Lochte would be informed in the United States so he could decide whether to introduce a defence in Brazil. The indictment will also be sent to the International Olympic Committee's ethics commission.
The swimmer's spokeswoman, Melissa Nathan, said Lochte had no comment.
During the Games, Lochte initially said that he and fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with a police badge as they returned to the Olympic Village from a party on August 15.
But video footage suggested the four actually faced security guards after vandalising a petrol station toilet.
Lochte left Brazil shortly after the incident and three days later, local authorities took Conger and Bentz off a plane heading to the United States so they could be questioned about the robbery claim.
They were later allowed to leave Brazil, as was Feigen, after he made a statement. Feigen, who initially stood by Lochte's story, was not charged.
Lochte has since admitted that he was drunk and that his behaviour led to the confrontation. It is not clear from the video whether a gun was ever pointed at the athletes.
Under Brazilian law, falsely filing a crime report carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison. Lochte could be tried in absentia if he does not return to face the charge.
The United States and Brazil have an extradition treaty dating back to the 1960s, but Brazil has a long history of not extraditing its own citizens to other nations and US authorities could take the same stance if Lochte is found guilty.
That is currently the case of the head of Brazil's football confederation, Marco Polo del Nero, who faces charges in the wide-ranging scandal entangling international soccer's ruling body Fifa. He has not travelled outside Brazil for more than a year to avoid being arrested by US authorities somewhere else.
The charges in Brazil raise questions about the future for Lochte, who is planning to take time off from swimming but wants to return to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He has 12 Olympic medals, second only to Michael Phelps among US Olympian men.
Lochte lost four major sponsors early this week over the controversy, including Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren. But on Thursday he picked up a new sponsor - Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops.
Pine Bros. said people should be more understanding of the swimmer, who will appear in ads that say the company's product is "forgiving on your throat".