US swimmers leave Brazil to jeering crowds
BRAZILIAN authorities have let two US swimmers leave Rio after they retracted a claim to have been dramatically mugged during the Olympic Games, officials said.
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were given back their confiscated passports and “recently departed Rio,” US Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun said in a statement.
The US Olympic chief apologised “to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil,” saying that the behaviour of the swimmers was “not acceptable” and that “potential consequences” would be decided later.
As they left late on Thursday, local crowds jeered at them, calling them “liars” and “fakes”.
A third swimmer, James Feigen, has also given police a revised statement about the apparently invented mugging story “with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible,” Blackmun said.
Feigen will pay $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to settle the dispute, ABC reported.
The fourth, swimming superstar Ryan Lochte, was already back in the United States when the scandal erupted. A Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered all four swimmers to stay in Brazil while their story was investigated.
Lochte said last Sunday that the four were victims of a robbery by at least one armed attacker posing as a Rio policeman. The claim caused a major stir at the Olympics and forced Brazilian authorities to apologise for what appeared to be a security lapse.
Brazilian police, though, said on Thursday that the athletes were drunk and got into an altercation with security staff after vandalising a petrol station where they stopped in a taxi to use the toilet.
Blackmun indicated that the athletes, questioned by police on Thursday, had recanted and confirmed the police version of the incident.
“They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where one of the athletes committed an act of vandalism,” the statement said.
“An argument ensued between the athletes and two armed gas station security staff, who displayed their weapons, ordered the athletes from their vehicle and demanded the athletes provide a monetary payment. Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave.”
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Rio, said: “Surveillance video of that night shows none of the athletes - all of whom admitted to being intoxicated - were robbed.
“It [their claim] made headlines around the world. Now that it’s been proven false, may Brazilians are puzzled and angry.”
The punishment for falsely reporting a crime in Brazil is either a six-month sentence or a fine. — AlJazeera CHELSEA’S new manager Antonio Conte has no intention of diluting the passion that caused him to leap into the crowd to celebrate Chelsea’s late winning goal in his first Premier League game on Monday.
He is taking the same attitude to volatile striker Diego Costa, scorer of that goal, who some observers felt should have been sent off earlier in the game.
“Football is passion,” Conte told a news conference ahead of today’s visit to Watford. “If you have this every day you can work very well.
“When you put a lot of time into your work it’s good to show passion. At Chelsea they are starting to know this part of me.
“I am a passionate man. I live the game with great passion. I play with my players and I want to feel this from them.
“Sometimes when you score an important goal and you win you can celebrate. I cannot hold my emotion.”
Spanish international Costa, who was twice suspended for three matches last season, had already been given a yellow card when he lunged in on West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, but escaped without further punishment.
“I am happy with his attitude and his behaviour,” said Conte, who joined Chelsea after Euro 2016, when his emotional touchline antics were a highlight of the tournament.
“We all know Diego. He is a passionate footballer and sometimes it can seem he’s on the edge but he’s a good guy and a good player.”
Chelsea and Conte are both familiar with Watford’s new manager Walter Mazzarri from his time in Italy with Napoli.
The London club recovered from a 3-1 deficit to knock his team out on their way to winning the Champions League in 2012.
Conte came up against him regularly while in charge of Juventus.
“I have great respect for him and his work,” he said of his compatriot. “He’s a good manager.”
Last season the teams drew both their league meetings, 2-2 at Stamford Bridge and 0-0 at Watford. — Reuters
Diego Costa and Antonio Conte
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger