U.S. Swimmer Gunnar Bentz Apologizes, Shares His Version of Events in Ryan Lochte's Rio Robbery Claim
By Jennifer Drysdale
Gunnar Bentz, one of the U.S. swimmers associated with the alleged Rio robbery scandal with Ryan Lochte, is speaking out.
The 20-year-old athlete, who won one gold medal in the Rio Olympics, released a statement on Friday, apologizing for his role in the situation, and offering his own account of events from the night of the alleged robbery.
"I want to offer a sincere apology to the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming, the extraordinary women and men of Team USA, and the University of Georgia," Bentz said in his statement. "I regret this situation has drawn attention away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens."
The Olympian then begins to detail his version of events that transpired early Sunday morning, defending himself against the Brazilian police's claims that he, Lochte, James Feigen and Jack Conger had vandalized a gas station bathroom. Bentz's account is similar to Lochte's second statement to Matt Lauer on the Today show.
"On the way back to the Olympic Village, we pulled into a convenience store to use the restroom. There was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes," Bentz explained. "There was a locked door out back and I did not witness anyone breaking it open."
"I am unsure why, but while we were in that area, Ryan pulled to the ground a framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall," he added. "I then suggested to everyone that we needed to leave the area and we returned to the taxi."
"Two men, whom I believe to have been security guards, then instructed us to exit the vehicle," he wrote. "No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guard's waistband. As Jimmy and Jack were walking away from the vehicle, the first security guard held up a badge to me and drew his handgun. I yelled to them to come back toward us and they complied."
"Then the second guard drew his weapon, and both guards pointed their guns at us and yelled at us to sit on a nearby sidewalk," he continued.
Bentz reiterated that he could not speak for Lochte's actions. "Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards. After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made," he wrote.
It was after Lochte's verbal altercation with a guard that Bentz said a customer approached the group and offered to serve as interpreter for both sides. "Understandably we were frightened and confused during this time. Through the interpreter, one of the guards said that we needed to pay them in order to leave," he recalled. "I gave them what I had in my wallet, which was a $20 bill, and Jimmy gave them 100 Reals, which is about $50 in total."
Bentz said that after they paid up, the guards permitted them to leave. According to Bentz, they walked "about a block down the street," and hailed another taxi to return to the Olympic Village.
While Feigen and Conger -- who have both arrived in the U.S. as of Friday -- have yet to speak out, Lochte took to Instagram on Friday morning to issue an apology.
"I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend," the 31-year-old swimmer wrote, "for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning."
Despite providing two somewhat different accounts of the incident to the Today show -- his first statement claimed the group's taxi was pulled over by men posing as police offers, while Matt Lauer said his second account stated they were stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom -- in his apology, Lochte maintained in his apology that he was robbed at gunpoint.
"It's traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country -- with a language barrier -- and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave," he continued. "But regardless of anyone else's behavior that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself."