U.S. Olympic swimmer Gunnar Bentz issued an apology to Team USA, the Olympic Committee and his college alma mater on Friday, August 19, following his involvement in the Rio gas station incident with three fellow athletes, including Ryan Lochte.
“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,” Bentz, 20, wrote in a note published on the University of Georgia athletics website. “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.”
The athlete then gave his side of the story, following conflicting reports from teammate Lochte, 32, and Rio authorities.
“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.,” Bentz wrote. “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.”
Shortly after, Bentz claims two security guards instructed the four Team USA swimmers to exit the taxi and sit on a nearby sidewalk.
“Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards,” Bentz explained. “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.… Through [an] 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.”
The Atlanta native added, “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.”
Earlier on Friday, the Rio Olympics Committee issued an exclusive statement to Us Weekly, accepting Lochte’s apology after the team’s controversial incident made headlines worldwide.
The four athletes have not been indicted for the incident.
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