- Jennifer Brett
U.S. swim team member and University of Georgia junior Gunnar Bentz, who was detained by Rio authorities amid their investigation into a robbery claim that turned out to be fiction, was able to leave Brazil after meeting with police. He arrived in Atlanta today and has released a lengthy statement.
“I want to offer a sincere apology to the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming, the extraordinary women and men of Team USA, and the University of Georgia. Being a member of the Olympic Swimming Team was an honor and a dream come true. The accomplishments of my teammates were awe-inspiring and I’m so pleased I got to see them up close. I regret this situation has drawn attention away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens.
“While I am anxious to put this matter behind me and rejoin my Georgia teammates in classes, practices and competitions, I feel compelled to stress several key points.
"1. I was never a suspect in the case from the beginning (Brazilian law enforcement officials saw me only as a witness).
"2. I never made a false statement to anyone at any time.
“I also want to be forthright about the details of what transpired last Sunday. What follows is consistent with the account I gave to the Brazilian authorities when I was interviewed for the first and only time on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro:
“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.
“Videos of this situation have been emerging the last several days. However, I am confident that some video angles have not been shown that would further substantiate my account. I also believe some scenes have been skipped over. Additionally, I would like to stress that our original taxi was not pulled over; the only occupants of the taxi were the four of us and the driver; and to my knowledge, there was no damage done to the door or the inside of the restroom.
“I am so thankful for the love and support of my family, my friends and my teammates during this time. Without question, I am taking away a valuable life lesson from this situation. In everything I do, I am representing my family, my country and my school. I will not take that responsibility lightly.”