Here’s the updated story:
Two American swimmers were pulled off their flight to the United States by the Brazilian authorities and detained for several hours on Wednesday night, Olympic officials said. It was the latest indication that the police were skeptical of the swimmers’ claims that they had been held up at gunpoint during the Rio Games.
“We can confirm that Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities,” a spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee said. “We are gathering further information.”
The men were released after agreeing to remain in the country and to speak with investigators about the episode on Thursday, according to officials with the United States Olympic team.
In a case that has made headlines around the world, the gold medalist Ryan Lochte said that after leaving a party early Sunday, he, Mr. Conger, Mr. Bentz and one other American swimmer were robbed by men claiming to be police officers.
The idea that such prominent athletes could be robbed by officers during the Olympics was a huge embarrassment for Brazil, underscoring longstanding concerns about holding the Games in a crime-plagued city like Rio de Janeiro.
But questions about the Americans’ testimony to the police turned that embarrassment into anger, with many Brazilians wondering whether the athletes had lied about the episode and smeared their country’s reputation.
Here are some facts:
- Brazil’s intentional murder rate is one of the highest in our hemisphere.
- During the buildup to the Olympics, and after the inauguration, body parts have washed on shore.
- The number of homicides in Rio state was up 15 percent in the first four months of 2016 compared with last year.
- Law enforcement forces are so stressed that 85,000 armed forces and police are on duty during the Olympics, not including thousands of counter-terrorism and intelligence operatives and analysts from other countries.
- The Rio Olympics were were 51% over budget, to the tune of $1.6 billion, the month before they opened. The final tab will be even higher.
Now that we’ve established that Brazil has diverted huge amounts of human capital and treasure to the Olympic games, let’s look at the swimmers’ story.
Either the swimmers were mugged by men in police uniforms, or they weren’t. Remember: they didn’t want to report it to the police.
If they were, it is certainly cause for embarrassment: Pulling crime victims out of their scheduled flights, holding them in location(s) unknown, and preventing them from exercising their free will ought to embarrass Cariocas otherwise too jaded to the sight of severed limbs washing ashore.
If they weren’t, they may be liable for criminal penalty, which will entail more commitment of law enforcement personnel and expense, in a city already bursting at the seams with violent crime. Hundreds of man-hours are being spent on a non-violent crime, detouring already-scarce resources from other, more important cases . . . all because some “rich”, gold-winning, Americans “smeared their country’s reputation.”
The rationale appears to be, “let’s show those gringos that they can’t lie about the cops, no matter what it costs,” and ignore that six Brazilians a day die at the hands of state security forces.
Until Brazil can prioritize what it needs to do to ensure the safety of its citizens, the country will remain a mess.
— Matt Gutman (@mattgutmanABC) August 18, 2016