U.S. swimmer Gunnar Bentz shared his side of a story that only gets stranger by the minute.
In a statement posted on the University of Georgia’s athletics website, Bentz offered a “sincere apology” to the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming, his teammates, and the University of Georgia for an early-morning incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station that has snowballed into an international embarrassment for the U.S. swimming team.
Brazilian police said Thursday that, as Lochte told the press, and that the intoxicated athletes instead vandalized a gas station bathroom and were questioned by guards before they paid for the damage and left.
Lochte had said that he and his teammates were held at gunpoint and robbed after a night of partying on the final night of Olympic swimming. Brazilian authorities say Lochte concocted the story to cover up what actually happened at a gas station.
“No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed,” Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said.
The drama over what exactly happened in Rio — and the ever-changing descriptions of the alleged robbery — have deeply angered Brazilians, who said it cast a pall on their city and their Olympics. The saga dominated Olympic headlines, overshadowing accomplishments of athletes who trained for years and set records. The situation was an enormous embarrassment for the U.S. Olympic team, which has dominated in winning medals.
“I regret this situation has drawn attention away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens,” Bentz said.
Bentz said he felt “compelled” to make certain points before putting the matter behind him. He emphasized that he was never a suspect in the case nor did he make any false statements to Brazilian police.
He shared his version of events:
After attending an event with several swimmers from different nations, I left in a taxicab along with U.S. swimmers Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte around 6 a.m. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but 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.
A man that I believe to be a customer approached us and offered to help as he spoke both English and Portuguese. 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. 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. They lowered the guns and I used hand gestures to ask if it was okay to leave and they said yes. We walked about a block down the street and hailed another taxi to return to the Village.
The University of Georgia junior said he’s taking away a “valuable life lesson” from the situation: “In everything I do, I am representing my family, my country and my school. I will not take that responsibility lightly.”
The Atlanta native took home a gold medal from this year’s games for helping the the 4x200 meter freestyle relay win in Rio.
Ryan Lochte also apologized Friday for his behavior, albeit using highly specific language. In a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram, the celebrated Olympian said he should have been more “careful and candid” about how he described what happened after a night of partying with his teammates.
In his statement, the 12-time Olympic medalist reiterated his view that a stranger pointed a gun at him and demanded money to let him leave the gas station.
He also asked everyone to move on.
“There has already been too much said and too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so I hope we spend our time celebrating the great stories and performances of these Games and look ahead to future successes.”
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