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US Olympic Swimmers Ordered Off A Plane As Dispute Escalates Over Alleged Armed Robbery

The inquiry started after US swimmer Ryan Lochte’s mother told media that her son was robbed.

18/08/2016 10:37 AM IST | Updated 18/08/2016 11:11 AM IST
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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Media wait outside of a police station at after Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from a United States bound flight so the Brazilian authorities could question them about a reported robbery on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazilian police have asked Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, as well as Conger and Bentz to give more information about an alleged robbery in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Two U.S. swimmers were taken off a plane in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday in an escalating dispute with local police about a reported armed robbery.

Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from a flight to the U.S. by Brazilian authorities, United States Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Jones said in a an e-mailed statement. Conger and Bentz were among a group of four swimmers who on Sunday said they were robbed at gunpoint by men posing as police.

Earlier on Wednesday a Brazilian judge issued an order to seize the passports of Ryan Lochte and James Feigen as part of an investigation into the alleged armed robbery. There were contradictions in the testimonies provided by the swimmers and the measure was to ensure the athletes stay in Brazil while the investigation continues, judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop said in a statement. Lochte and Feigen won gold medals in Rio.

Lochte was already back in the U.S. before the judge issued the order, the Associated Press reported, citing his father. Feigen's whereabouts couldn't be confirmed.

The inquiry started after Lochte's mother told media that her son was robbed. The International Olympic Committee initially denied a robbery had taken place, before backtracking. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, then delivered details of the incident to NBC, saying the criminals posed as police.

"The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, 'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet -- he left my cell phone, he left my credentials," Lochte said at the time.

Lochte later told USA Today that he and his three colleagues didn't initially report the incident to US Olympic officials "because we were afraid we'd get in trouble."

Footage from security cameras posted online showed the swimmers arriving back at the Athletes Village following the alleged incident, looking relaxed as they took out their belongings before passing through a metal detector.

The allegations made by the swimmers were a setback for Brazilian authorities who are carrying out the biggest security operation in the nation's history. Around 85,000 personnel, including soldiers and state and city police, have been spread throughout Rio during the games.

That hasn't stopped crime entirely. Portugal's education and sports minister and two Australian rowing coaches were robbed at knifepoint while walking near the Olympic rowing venue in the days after the Aug. 5 opening ceremony. Members of Australia's Paralympic team were also robbed in the lead-up to the Olympics.

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