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Two American Swimmers Removed From Flight By Brazilian Authorities

Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were with Ryan Lochte on Sunday when the athletes were allegedly robbed at gunpoint in Rio.

Last updated on August 18, 2016, at 9:26 a.m. ET

Posted on August 17, 2016, at 9:52 p.m. ET

Gunnar Bentz, left, and Jack Conger.
Getty Images / AP

Gunnar Bentz, left, and Jack Conger.

Two American Olympic swimmers who said they were with Ryan Lochte during an armed robbery in Rio de Janeiro were pulled off an airplane and detained by Brazilian law enforcement, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) confirmed Wednesday to BuzzFeed News.

Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were headed back to the US on an overnight flight when federal law enforcement pulled them off the flight, Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for the USOC, said.

"Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were detained Wednesday night shortly before their flight was scheduled to depart from Rio. They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday," a statement released by the USOC said.

An attorney for the swimmers said they will not be allowed to leave Brazil until they testify about the robbery, the Associated Press reported.

The USOC statement also mentioned a third swimmer, James Feigen, although his location was not immediately clear.

"James Feigen is also communicating with local authorities and intends to make further statements regarding the incident on Thursday as well," the USOC statement said.

The swimmers previously told the Associated Press and NBC they were returning from a party Sunday morning when their car was pulled over by what they believed were police officers. Armed men then demanded the men's valuables at gunpoint, Lochte said.

US swimmer Ryan Lochte
Martin Meissner / AP

US swimmer Ryan Lochte

Brazilian authorities, however, have said they have found little evidence of the robbery and that the swimmers provided few details about the incident. Investigators told BuzzFeed News the swimmers gave statements to police that contradicts time-stamped surveillance footage.

Bentz and Conger had been called to testify by local police about the robbery, but did not show, according to a report from Brazilian newspaper O Globo. Authorities then searched for the athletes at the Olympic village, but were unable to locate them.

News that the swimmers were detained came after a Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered Lochte to surrender his passport and remain in the country as the investigation into the robbery continued.

Lochte, however, had already left the country and is now back in the US.

In a phone interview Wednesday night, Lochte told NBC's Matt Lauer his initial conversations with Brazilian police after the alleged robbery had been, Lauer said, "casual, friendly, vague and they didn't ask him a lot of questions."

Lauer said he asked the Olympic swimmer about differences in his first recounting of the robbery and his phone conversation Wednesday about the incident.

"The guy pointed the gun in my direction and cocked it" - @RyanLochte clarifies incident via phone conversation with @MLauer

In his initial telling of the incident, Lochte had described a robber pointing a gun at his head and cocking the gun. In his conversation with Lauer Wednesday, he said the robber pointed the gun in his direction.

"He feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization," Lauer said. "I think people listening at the time might feel it was embellishment at the time."

Lauer also said Lochte told him authorities never questioned the validity of his statements when they reported the robbery.

BREAKING NEWS: @MLauer reports after speaking with Ryan Lochte directly: https://t.co/YQHTMLeQfi https://t.co/Y6mWRIuwte

A spokesperson for the US consulate in Brazil told BuzzFeed News they were aware of news reports that the two American athletes were detained.

"We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance," the spokesperson said.

Officials refused to provide additional details of the incident "due to privacy concerns."


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