Lochte, US swimmers banned over Rio robbery story

Ryan Lochte has been banned from competitive swimming for 10 months for falsely claiming he and three American team-mates were robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics.

The 32-year-old has been suspended by United States Swimming and the US Olympic Committee until June 30, 2017, meaning he will miss next year’s FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen have been handed four-month bans for their part in the scandal.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said: “The behaviour of these athletes was not acceptable. It unfairly maligned our hosts and diverted attention away from the historic achievements of Team USA.

“Each of the athletes has accepted responsibility for his actions and accepted the appropriate sanctions. We look forward to focusing our energy on the Paralympic Games and the incredible men and women representing our country in Rio.”

Lochte took his Olympic medals haul to 12 after helping capture the men’s 4×200 metres freestyle gold, but his achievement was overshadowed by his actions outside the pool in Rio.

He declared that he, Bentz, Conger and Feigen were robbed by thieves posing as armed police as their taxi took them back to the athletes’ village from a party in the early hours of August 14.

However, Rio police spotted inconsistencies in the quartet’s initial statements and following an investigation, civil police chief Fernando Veloso said the group had lied to cover up vandalising a petrol station.

A security guard at the petrol station did pull his gun but only to calm down an aggressive Lochte, according to Veloso, and the four swimmers left the scene before the police arrived, having handed over a small sum of money to pay for the damage.

While Lochte left Rio a couple of days after the incident, Bentz and Conger were dramatically hauled off a US-bound flight and only allowed to leave the country after questioning.

Feigen was reported to have made a charitable donation of more than £8,000 to have charges of criminal damage and falsely reporting a crime dropped, and to get his passport back.

The punishments on the four swimmers were imposed due to them breaching the code of conduct of both USOC and USA Swimming.

All four will receive no funding and will be unable to access USOC training centres or other facilities for the duration of their suspensions.

Lochte, who subsequently publicly apologised for his behaviour, has also been ordered to perform 20 hours of community service and will forfeit his medal funding from USOC and USA Swimming for his gold in Rio.

US Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said: “During an otherwise extraordinary Olympic Games, a small group of athletes had lapses in judgement and conduct that are unacceptable and not consistent with our expectations.

“When code of conduct infractions occur, it’s our responsibility to take action that reflects the seriousness of what happened.

“Unfortunately, this storyline took attention away from the athletes who deserved it the most. These athletes took accountability for their mistakes and are committed to represent themselves and our country with the great character and distinction we expect.”

Press Association Sport