Thursday 29 September 2016

US swimmer Feigen makes payment and leaves Brazil amid 'robbery' scandal

Published 20/08/2016 | 07:16

US swimmer James Feigen has finally left Brazil after his passport was returned (AP)
US swimmer James Feigen has finally left Brazil after his passport was returned (AP)

The last of the four American Olympic swimmers involved in a highly-publicised incident at a Rio petrol station is on his way back to the US.

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The US Olympic Committee says James Feigen is on a flight that left Rio late on Friday night, after he paid £8,260 to a Brazilian charity, and his passport was returned.

Earlier this week, a judge ordered it be seized while police investigated what swimmer Ryan Lochte initially described as an armed robbery.

Police said the robbery story was fabricated and that the four swimmers involved vandalised a petrol station toilet early on Sunday after a night of partying.

Feigen's departure came after Lochte apologised for his behaviour, saying he should have been more "careful and candid" about how he described what happened.

But he did not explain why he embellished details of an encounter with armed security guards and called it a robbery, and why he omitted to say that he and his three team-mates had damaged the toilet.

"Regardless of the behaviour of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry," Lochte said in a lengthy post on his Instagram account.

"This was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons."

The situation raises 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.

Usually known for his party boy image and love of the limelight, he now is facing a queue of nervous sponsors, the possibility of legal charges in Brazil and sanctions from USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee.

As hard as he plays, Lochte works hard, too. His 12 medals are second only to Michael Phelps among US male Olympians.

This time he was only a small part of the show. He finished fifth in his only individual event and swam on the victorious 4x200 metre freestyle relay.

Instead, the biggest memory of the 32-year-old swimmer in Rio will be the grainy security video of him and team-mates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Feigen exiting the petrol station toilet and sitting on the ground, some with hands up.

The robbery controversy deeply hurt Brazilians, who were eager to prove they could get street crime under control and host a safe Olympics.

And it overshadowed the efforts of US Olympians, who have dominated the medal count. Swimmers alone piled up 16 golds and 33 medals in total at the games.

USA Swimming is expected to convene its executive board to discuss likely punishment. Technically, the four could be fined, suspended or expelled.

While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgment and conduct that led us to this point," USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said.

"It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals."

F eigen had indicated he would retire after Rio and the 26-year-old is looking forward to attending law school somewhere in Texas.

Bentz and Conger stumbled just as they were getting started on the international stage, so the repercussions may hit the Olympic rookies hardest.

They, along with Feigen, swam in preliminary heats, and earned gold medals when their team-mates won relays in the finals.

They returned home to the US on Friday.

Bentz, 20, and Conger, 21, remain amateurs and are both at university, in Georgia and Texas respectively.

Bentz said after his return home that he never lied about the incident.

He said he never saw anyone break down a toilet door, and that the swimmers relieved themselves on nearby bushes after a night out.

Lochte tore a sign down from the building, and then the four returned to their taxi, he said.

Bentz said they were ordered out of the cab by security guards and ultimately forced, with guns drawn, to sit on a nearby pavement. Lochte then got up and yelled at the guards.

A translator assisted and told them they needed to pay money to leave, Bentz said.

He and Feigen paid about £38 in total, and the guns were lowered and they were allowed to leave.

Bentz also said there were additional video angles that support his account that may not have been released.

AP

Press Association

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