Rio Olympics 2016: Officials get blasted for handling of athlete's armed robbery

Lochte and three other American swimmers were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday, Aug. 14, by thieves posing as police officers who stopped their taxi and took their money and belongings. Photo / AP
Lochte and three other American swimmers were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday, Aug. 14, by thieves posing as police officers who stopped their taxi and took their money and belongings. Photo / AP

Olympic and American officials are ducking for cover amid strong criticism over their handling of Ryan Lochte's armed robbery in Rio.

Emergence of the story yesterday, which was broken by Fox Sports in the US, resulted in a bizarre exchange of buck-passing and denials.

Fox Sports reported that superstar Lochte and three US swim teammates were robbed at gunpoint on the way home from a party with Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The story was immediately and emphatically denied by International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams, who declared it "absolutely not true".

But officials were forced into an embarrassing backflip, with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) later releasing a statement to confirm the swimmers had been robbed in a taxi "by individuals posing as armed police officers".

A USOC spokesman initially claimed at a press conference there had been no communication between American officials but later backtracked on that claim to Fox.

The fallout continued on Tuesday, with the IOC forced to defend its incorrect denial of the story and questions asked about a potential cover-up.

Adams clearly became frustrated in several exchanges with reporters on the issue and made clear he blamed American officials for feeding him incorrect information.

"I can explain it very, very simply," Adams told international media.

"People asked me to give them an update, I contacted the USOC, they told me the story was not correct. I reported it was not correct."

Adams pointed out that he alerted reporters as soon as he knew that "new facts" would be coming through but was pushed on the matter again.

"I repeated the statement from USOC. I'm purely passing on the USOC statement so if you're not happy with their statement, I would refer you to USOC," he said.

"To be honest, in future maybe I should wait a few hours before I carry on with the story but I was being asked by journalists, I asked them (USOC) while I was up here, I gave their response. If you have a problem with that please speak to them. Next question."

It's been suggested the USOC was not initially given the full story. One US reporter asked Adams if there was "any concern Lochte and his teammates may be trying to cover something up".

"I couldn't possibly comment on that," Adams said.

Lochte on Monday spoke of the attack in chilling detail, telling NBC News: "They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground - they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so - I'm not getting down on the ground.

"And then 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."

The robbery is the latest in a string of security incidents that have overshadowed the Games.

- NZ Herald

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