Review Category : National Sports

Ryan Lochte Returns Home to Charlotte After Olympic Scandal

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Embattled American Olympian swimmer Ryan Lochte returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina, Saturday as fallout from the scandal of a robbery he allegedly falsely reported continued.

Lochte claimed during the games that he and three other swimmers were held up at gunpoint after leaving a party.

But police said that the story was a fabrication and that the Olympians were not robbed and were not victims. Rather, they alleged that the Olympians vandalized a bathroom at a gas station.

Police in Rio de Janeiro recommended that Lochte and his teammate James Feigen be charged with false reporting. Feigen donated approximately $11,000 to charity to avoid prosecution.

Lochte’s two other teammates, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, returned home after giving statements to police and allege that Lochte pulled a poster off the gas station wall, sparking a confrontation with armed guards.

Lochte has apologized for his behavior in a statement and said that he was traumatized by being out in a foreign country with a language barrier and having a stranger point a gun at him and demand money.

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US Swimmer Jack Conger Says He Regrets ‘Trouble and Embarrassment’ Over Incident in Rio

Chris McGrath/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Jack Conger, one of four U.S. Olympic swimmers caught up in a scandal over a claim of a robbery during the games in Rio de Janeiro, issued a statement Saturday saying he regrets “the trouble and embarrassment this event has brought to the people of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, and the distraction it has caused from the achievements of my fellow Olympians.”

Conger also said that he has been truthful in his statements to officials on what happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 14.

“Let me begin by emphasizing that I have been completely truthful in my statements throughout this unfortunate situation, including the information I provided to US officials before leaving Brazil,” the statement said. “In fact, the Brazilian authorities made clear to me from the very beginning that I was being considered only a witness, not a suspect.”

The U.S. swimmer’s statement provided “a summary of what I believe happened that night.”

Conger said that early on Sunday morning he was celebrating with his teammates at the French House in Rio.

“Four of us took a taxi back to the Olympic Village, and on the way we pulled into a gas station to use the restroom, but ultimately relieved ourselves outside, for which I apologize,” Conger’s statement said. “Ryan Lochte removed a poster from a nearby wall, which apparently alerted the gas station employees, leading to our being confronted by two armed security men.”

Conger continued, “Although I cooperated with their requests while there was a heated exchange among others, at one point a weapon was pointed at me. Eventually, a man appeared who was able to translate for us, helping to defuse the situation. We paid some money to compensate them for the torn poster, and returned to the Village in a different taxi.”

“This has been an unsettling, humbling and frightening experience,” he said. “It’s a reminder that all of us, when we travel and especially when we represent the US in the Olympics, are ambassadors for our country and should be on our best behavior.”

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Simone Biles to Lead Team USA as Flag Bearer in 2016 Olympics Closing Ceremony

Alex Livesey/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles will lead Team USA as the flag bearer in Sunday’s closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Saturday.

Biles will be the first gymnast to lead the U.S. Olympic team into a closing ceremony and the first-ever female gymnast to be selected as a flag bearer for either an opening or closing ceremony, the committee said.

“It’s an incredible honor to be selected as the flag bearer by my Team USA teammates,” Biles said in a statement today. “This experience has been the dream of a lifetime for me and my team and I consider it a privilege to represent my country, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics by carrying our flag. I also wish to thank the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the entire country of Brazil, for hosting an incredible Games.”

Biles, who made her Olympic debut in Brazil this month, became the first American gymnast to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games and one of only four women to accomplish the feat in Olympic history. The 19-year-old also earned a bronze medal in the balance beam final.

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Ryan Lochte Enlists Top Crisis Communications Pro Matthew Hiltzik Following Olympic Scandal

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Ryan Lochte is following in the footsteps of other embattled public figures and has enlisted sought-after crisis communications professional Matthew Hiltzik, ABC News has confirmed.

The move follows the backlash the U.S. Olympic swimmer has endured following claims that he and his teammates were robbed in Rio last week. Lochte apologized Friday, posting on his social media accounts, “I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics.”

Hiltzik, whose firm Hiltzik Strategies has offices in New York and Los Angeles, confirmed to ABC News on Friday that he has been brought on by Lochte’s team as an advisor.

The corporate communications and PR guru is no stranger to athletes in crisis: He’s worked with football player Manti Te’o (who claimed he had a cancer-stricken girlfriend), basketball player Tony Parker (who’s alleged infidelity was splashed across tabloid covers), and baseball player Ryan Braun (who tested positive for an abnormally high level of testosterone). Hiltzik has also worked with several owners, coaches, and players from all of the major sporting leagues.

Hiltzik, a licensed attorney, has also worked with a slew of Hollywood and media figures, including Justin Bieber, Alec Baldwin, and Katie Couric.

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US Swimmer Gunnar Bentz Details Account of Claimed Robbery in Rio

Angel Valentin/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — One of the U.S. Olympic swimmers caught up in the scandal over a fabricated claim of a robbery during the games in Rio de Janeiro, offered a detailed account of the events that happened that night while apologizing for his actions, according to a statement from the University of Georgia.

While offering a “sincere apology,” Gunnar Bentz, a student at the University of Georgia, maintained that he was never a suspect in the case and “never made a false statement to anyone at any time” in the incident, also involving teammate and medalist Ryan Lochte, the statement says.

Bentz, who was pulled off a flight in Brazil on Wednesday, but was allowed to return home after speaking to police, said that he, Lochte and two other swimmers, Jack Conger and James Feigen, stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom after leaving an event with swimmers from different nations.

“There was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes,” Bentz said, according to the statement, which he said was consistent with what he told police.

Contrary to what police said, Bentz maintains that he didn’t see anyone break open a door at the gas station.

“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,” Bentz said.

He then said that two men, believed to be security guards, asked them to get out of their taxi.

“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,” Bentz said. “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.”

“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 added.

After that, Bentz says that a customer translated for them and they were told they needed to pay money in order to leave. After handing over $20 and 100 reals, “they lowered the guns and I used hand gestures to ask if it was okay to leave and they said yes.”

Lochte had claimed that he and his teammates were held up at gunpoint, saying that one of the assailants cocked a gun and put it against his forehead.

But police in Rio say that they were not robbed. Cops in the city also said that one or more of the Olympians broke mirrors and damaged other things in a bathroom in the gas station.

Police had recommended charges of making a false report for Lochte and Feigen, but Feigen donated $11,000 to charity as part of a plea bargain in order to avoid prosecution. He departed for the United States Friday night after getting his passport back.

In a statement Friday, Lochte apologized for his behavior and for “not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning.”

Lochte said it was “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.

The IOC is looking to set up a disciplinary committee in the case and Lochte and his teammates have been admonished by the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming.

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US Swimmer Jimmy Feigen Can Collect Passport After Paying $11K to Avoid Prosecution in Rio

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — U.S. Olympic swimmer Jimmy Feigen is free to collect his passport and leave Brazil after he made an $11,000 donation to a Brazilian charity in an effort to resolve a dispute over claims of being robbed in Rio de Janeiro that authorities say were made up.

During a court hearing, Feigen issued an apology to Brazil, the Court of Justice of the State of Rio de Janeiro said in a statement.

Feigen’s lawyer in Rio, Breno Melaragno Costa, announced the agreement early Friday morning, hours after he sat down with a judge and officials from the prosecuting ministry at a police station in Rio for four hours on Thursday.

Feigen agreed to donate 35,000 Reals, or roughly $11,000, to a Brazilian charity called Reaction Institute.

Feigen is the last of the four U.S. swimmers caught up in the controversy over an alleged robbery remaining in Brazil. Costa said that Feigen’s passport would be returned and he will be free to leave the country after the payment is made.

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US Swimmers Robbery Claim Scandal: Here’s What We Know and Don’t Know

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Four U.S. Olympic swimmers have been caught up in controversy this week over an alleged robbery in Brazil. Here’s everything we know so far and what questions still remain.

What Happened?

U.S. Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte claimed on Sunday that he and three teammates — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen — were robbed after being pulled over in a taxi by men with guns and badges early that morning while heading back to the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro. Lochte said that his money was taken.

Lochte, 32, then told NBC News’ Matt Lauer Wednesday that the swimmers had used a restroom at a gas station and when they got back to their taxi, the driver didn’t move. That’s when two men approached with guns and badges and told them to get out and get down, Lochte said.

But Rio’s Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said the four U.S. swimmers were not robbed.

He said one or more of the U.S. Olympians vandalized a bathroom at the gas station after they left a party early Sunday. The athletes broke mirrors and damaged other things in the bathroom, police said.

The athletes initially refused to stay, but security asked the taxi not to leave, police said. Another person stepped in to intervene and translate between the athletes and the guards, and the athletes left money, police said.

Veloso added that a taxi driver picked up two women from the same party and that the women said they were “dating” or had relations with the swimmers.

Police said that witnesses were initially afraid to speak to police because of the possibility of retaliation from the high-profile foreign athletes involved.

There was no evidence of violence against the athletes, police noted.

The investigation is ongoing.

Sources who spoke to the four swimmers Thursday disputed the Brazilian police characterization of what happened, telling ABC News that Lochte and the others were held up by gunmen until the athletes handed over hundreds of dollars.

Surveillance video obtained by Brazil’s Globo TV shows the swimmers at a gas station. Additional surveillance footage obtained by Globo TV shows the swimmers arriving at a French House party around 1:45 a.m. and leaving four hours later. According to a judge in the case, the athletes claimed to have left the party at 4 a.m.

Where Are the Swimmers Now?

Lochte, Bentz and Conger have returned to the United States, but Feigen remains in Brazil.

Bentz, 20, and Conger, 21, were removed from their U.S.-bound flight Wednesday evening by Brazilian police, who then interviewed the pair about Lochte’s claim that he, Bentz, Conger and Feigen were robbed at gunpoint in Rio.

Sergio Riera, a Brazilian criminalist who is the attorney for Conger and Bentz, said the two swimmers “didn’t understand why they couldn’t board the plane.”

“They were very scared. It’s confusing because the police chief is saying one thing, and the judge is saying something else,” Riera said.

The United States Olympic Committee said Conger, of Rockville, Maryland, and Bentz, of Atlanta, left Rio Thursday night after giving statements to authorities and getting their passports back.

The duo arrived at Miami International Airport around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Lochte, born in Rochester, New York, returned to the United States Monday.

Will They Be Charged?

On Thursday, Brazilian officials recommended that Lochte and Feigen face charges of false reporting of a crime, a civil police spokesman said.

In a statement, Lochte’s attorney Jeff Ostrow said he wasn’t aware “of the federal police recommending charges for filing a false police report.”

“I am not surprised to hear it though. They’ve gone this far and have failed to acknowledge that the robbery actually took place, so that would be the natural next step,” he said. “A gun was pointed at the swimmers and they were forced to get out of their cab and give up their money. No matter what happened at that gas station, the swimmers were robbed by people with a gun appearing to be law enforcement. No matter what country you are in that is robbery and robbery is a serious crime.”

Ostrow told ESPN that authorities have not reached out to Lochte since he gave his initial statement Sunday night.

“The authorities know how to get in touch with me, and we would cooperate,” Ostrow said. “But I haven’t heard from anyone.”

Lochte was not asked by authorities to stay in the country, Ostrow added.

Lochte issued an apology Friday “for not being more careful and candid” when explaining what happened in Rio last weekend.

If Lochte is charged, Barrozo predicts that it would be resolved in about a week as a bench trial before the judge and not a jury. If it was handled by a regular Brazilian court, Barrozo thinks the “outcome would probably be the same,” but it would take a lot longer.

Meanwhile, Feigen agreed Thursday to make an almost $11,000 donation to a Brazilian charity in an effort to resolve the dispute over the robbery claim, his lawyer said.

Feigen’s lawyer in Rio, Breno Melaragno Costa, announced the agreement early this morning, hours after he sat down with a judge and officials from the prosecuting ministry at a police station in Rio for four hours. The 26-year-old swimmer agreed to donate 35,000 reals, or roughly $11,000, to a Brazilian charity called Reaction Institute.

Costa said that Feigen’s passport would be returned and he will be free to leave the country and return home to San Antonio, Texas, after the payment is made.

Feigen also provided a revised statement to Brazilian authorities Thursday night in the hopes of getting his passport released, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Will Lochte Be Extradited to Brazil?

Legal experts said the chances of Lochte or his teammates’ being extradited or forced to return to Brazil are slim.

The United States and Brazil have a long-standing extradition agreement in the form of a treaty, which outlines the crimes a citizen must be charged with or convicted of in order for the other country to be willing to extradite a citizen. The crimes listed – including murder, rape and arson — are much more grave than those alleged here.

Who Were the Women?

During a news conference Thursday night, Rio police said two young women who left the same party as Lochte, Bentz, Conger and Feigen told a taxi driver that they had “stayed” with the swimmers. This may have been a “motive” for the fabricated claims, police said.

The identities of these women remain unknown.

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IOC Looking to Set up Disciplinary Commission in Ryan Lochte Case

Adam Pretty/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — The International Olympic Committee is looking to set up a disciplinary commission to determine if swimmer Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates will face punishment over what Brazilian authorities say was a fabricated story about a robbery during the Rio games, ABC News confirmed Friday.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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New Orleans Chosen as Host of 2017 NBA All-Star Game

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Next year’s NBA All-Star Game will be held in New Orleans, the league announced on Friday. This marks the third time the city has hosted the game.

“New Orleans is a world-class destination for sports and entertainment and we are very appreciative that the city is once again hosting our All-Star festivities,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

The game, which will take place on Feb. 19, 2017, was originally scheduled to be played in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, the NBA moved the location because of a bill in the state that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

“We are grateful that the NBA has selected us to host the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans,” Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Pelicans, said in a statement. “We have made tremendous upgrades to the Smoothie King Center and know the building will be a first-class venue to host the myriad of events associated with All-Star weekend.”

The news that the Smoothie King Center has been chosen as the new venue comes amid flooding in Louisiana that has killed at least 13 people and displaced thousands from their homes.

“Even in the midst of a historic crisis, I am excited that the NBA has recognized how great the City of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana are,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

The NBA, along with the National Basketball Players Association, Pelicans and New Orleans Saints, will be providing “financial and other ongoing support of the flood rescue, relief and rebuilding efforts,” the league said.

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Ryan Lochte Apologizes ‘for Not Being More Careful’ in Rio

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images(RIO DE JANEIRO) — U.S. Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte issued an apology Friday “for not being more careful and candid” when explaining what happened during an alleged gunpoint robbery in Rio de Janeiro last weekend.

“I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics,” Lochte said in a statement posted on social media. “I wanted to share these thoughts until it was confirmed that the legal situation was addressed and it was clear that my teammates would be arriving home safely.”

Lochte claimed on Sunday that he and three teammates — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen — were robbed in a taxi early that morning while heading to the Olympic Village. Lochte told NBC News’ Matt Lauer on Wednesday that the swimmers had used a restroom at a gas station and when they got back to their taxi, the driver didn’t move. That’s when two men approached with guns and badges and told them to get out and get down, Lochte said.

But Rio’s Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said the four U.S. swimmers were not robbed.

One or more of the U.S. Olympians vandalized a bathroom at the gas station after they left a party early Sunday. The athletes broke mirrors and damaged other things in the bathroom, police said.

The athletes initially refused to stay, but security asked the taxi not to leave. Another person stepped in to intervene between the athletes and the guards, and the athletes left money, police said.

Police said that witnesses were initially afraid to speak to police because of the possibility of retaliation from the high-profile foreign athletes involved.

There was no evidence of violence against the athletes, police noted. The investigation is ongoing.

In his apology Friday, Lochte called the experience “traumatic.”

“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, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event,” he said in the statement.

Lochte also acknowledged that “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,” he continued.

Lochte, Bentz and Conger have returned to the United States, but Feigen remains in Brazil.

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