Brazil police pull US swimmers from flight in robbery probe

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Two US swimmers pulled from plane in Brazil

Brazilian police stopped two U.S. Olympic swimmers from boarding a flight home on Wednesday to question them about how they and two team mates were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro at the weekend, after a judge raised doubts over their accounts.

A third swimmer, James Feigen, is in contact with Brazilian authorities and plans to make further statements to them on Thursday, said a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC).

Federal police also want to question U.S. gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte, one of swimming's most decorated Olympians, but he had already flown home to the United States on Monday, a police spokesman said.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Summer Olympics

The four swimmers have said they were robbed by gunmen while returning to the Athletes' Village in a taxi in the early hours of Sunday after a party - an incident that stoked fears for the safety of athletes and visitors at South America's first Games.

The Rio Olympics have been dogged by a series of security scares, including the robbery of two visiting government ministers, a mugger being shot dead outside the opening ceremony and stray bullets being fired into the equestrian center.

On Wednesday, The Guardian newspaper reported that a British team member had been held up at gunpoint while enjoying a night out in Rio in the early hours of Tuesday. The person was not seriously hurt, the newspaper added.

However, in the case of the four swimmers, police sources have said investigators have not found any evidence so far to back up their accounts.

Television images showed U.S. Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger walking into a police office at the airport to give testimony. A spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) confirmed the two men were taken from their flight.

"We can confirm that Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities," said Patrick Sandusky, the USOC spokesperson.

"They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday."

Earlier on Wednesday, a judge had ordered police to seize the passports of Lochte and Feigen to prevent them leaving the country, apparently unaware that Lochte had already left.

None of the swimmers face charges, the source said.

RELATED: Ryan Lochte tells morning show about alleged robbery incident

Police have taken the passports of Bentz and Conger pending their testimony, O Globo newspaper said on its web site.

People magazine reported that Lochte was spotted at an airport in North Carolina on Wednesday with his girlfriend, Kayla Rae Reid, a Playboy model. Reuters could not verify this.

Lochte's attorney did not return calls for comment.

Judicial sources said the judge would consider whether to ask Lochte to return to Brazil to give testimony or allow him to do so in the United States. He had already given testimony to Brazilian police before leaving the country.

TAXI DRIVER SOUGHT

On Sunday, Lochte told U.S. media the robbers had carried police badges when they pulled the taxi over. They ordered them to drop to the ground and demanded their wallets and belongings, he said, adding he had initially tried to resist.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Ryan Lochte of the United States attends a press conference in the Main Press Center on Day 7 of the Rio Olympics on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Semifinal - Men's 200m Individual Medley Semifinals - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10/08/2016. Ryan Lochte (USA) of USA competes REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Final - Men's 200m Individual Medley Final - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 11/08/2016. Ryan Lochte (USA) of USA reacts. REUTERS/David Gray FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Aug 9, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Conor Dwyer (USA) , Townley Haas (USA) , Ryan Lochte (USA) and Michael Phelps (USA) with their gold medals after the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. "One of my favorite songs is 'Sky's the Limit' by Lil Wayne," said Lochte. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 03: Ryan Lochte of USA competes in the Men's 200m Freestyle Final on day one of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 3, 2014 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - AUGUST 08: Ryan Lochte (L) and Nathan Adrian of the United States celebrate winning the gold medal in a new world record time of 3:23.05 in the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay Final on day fifteen of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 8, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 16: Ryan Lochte swims in the Men's 400 meter individual medley during the Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin on January 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
US Ryan Lochte competes in the final of the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay swimming event at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan on August 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - AUGUST 06: Ryan Lochte of the United States competes his way to the gold medal in the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final on day thirteen of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 6, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - AUGUST 05: Ryan Lochte of the United States competes in the Men's 200m Individual Medley Semi-Finals on day twelve of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 5, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Swimmer Ryan Lochte poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Jul 1, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Ryan Lochte reacts after the mens 200 meter individual medley final in the U.S. Olympic swimming team trials at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JULY 16: Ryan Lochte talks with the media during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Training Camp Media Day on July 16, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JULY 01: Ryan Lochte of the United States prepares to compete in a final heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Six of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 1, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 30: Ryan Lochte of the United States reacts after competing in a semi-final heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Five of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 30, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 26: Ryan Lochte of the United States looks on after the final heat for the Men's 400 Meter Individual Medley during Day One of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 26, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 27: Ryan Lochte of the United States looks on after competing in a heat for the Men's 200 Meter Freestyle during Day Two of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 27, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29: Ryan Lochte of the United States prepares to compete in a preliminary heat of the Men's 100 meter freestyle during Day 4 of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 29, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 15: Ryan Lochte swims the breaststroke leg of a preliminary heat of the men's 200m IM during the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte swim meet at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 15, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - APRIL 14: Ryan Lochte starts the Men 200 LC Meter Freestyle final at Skyline Aquatic Center on April 14, 2016 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 12: Ryan Lochte and his coach David Marsh speak to the media at a press conference prior to the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series Charlotte swim meet at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 12, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11, 2016: Michael Phelps (L) and Ryan Lochte of the United States look on after the men's 200m individual medley final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. It is 22nd Olympic gold for Phelps. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
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"The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, 'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever'," he told NBC. "He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials."

In a fresh interview with NBC that has yet to be aired, Lochte had slightly modified an aspect of his story, Today Show host Matt Lauer said.

Instead of being pulled over by the men, Lochte said the swimmers stopped at a gas station to go to the bathroom when the robbers showed up. He also said a gun was not put to his head but was pointed in his direction.

"I think he feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization," said Lauer.

Police sources have told Reuters in recent days they have been unable to find the taxi driver or to corroborate any testimony provided by the swimmers. On Wednesday, police issued an appeal for the taxi driver to come forward.

The judicial sources said the judge in her ruling pointed to an inconsistency between Lochte, who had said only one man was involved in the robbery, and his team mate, who testified that several men had robbed them.

The judge also noted that video footage of the swimmers showed them returning to the Athletes Village joking with one another and in possession of many of their belongings, including cellular phones and Olympic accreditation.

She also highlighted that some of the swimmers testified to leaving a party at the French Olympic delegation just after 4 a.m. but security cameras showed them arriving at the Athletes Village at around 7 a.m., the sources said. That journey would normally only take around 30 minutes at that hour of day.

On his official Twitter account, Lochte said: "My hair is going back to its normal color tomorrow", in what appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to changing his appearance. The swimmer competed in Rio with his hair dyed peroxide blond.

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