Brazil police pull US swimmers from flight in robbery probe

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)
ATHENS, Greece: US Ryan Lochte poses on the podium after winning the men's 200m individual medley final, at the 2004 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatic Center in Athens, 19 August 2004. Lochte took the silver medal. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
MONTREAL - JULY 29: (L-R) Markus Rogan of Austria wins the silver medal, Aaron Peirsol of the United States wins the gold medal and Ryan Lochte of the United States wins the bronze medal in the 200 meter Backstroke final during the XI FINA World Championships at the Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 29, 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Peirsol set a new world record of 1:54.66. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 09: Ryan Lochte of the USA celebrates winning gold and breaking the world record with USA team mate Jayme Cramer in the men's 200m backstroke final during day five of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) held at Qi Zhong Stadium on April 9, 2006 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - DECEMBER 01: World-Record Holder Ryan Lochte of Florida swims the Butterfly leg in the Men's 400M Individual Medley Prelim Heats during the 2006 U.S. Open of Swimming on December 1, 2006 at the Boilermaker Aquatics Center in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Ryan Lochte of the USA poses with his silver medal following the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final during the XII FINA World Championships at the Rod Laver Arena on March 29, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Michael Phelps of the United States (L) celebrates victory and a new world record in the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final with second place Ryan Lochte of the United States during the XII FINA World Championships at the Rod Laver Arena on April 1, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Ryan Lochte attends THE CINEMA SOCIETY with CHANEL BEAUTE & VOGUE host the after party for 'THE DUCHESS' at Cooper Square Hotel on September 10, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by BiLLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
BEIJING - AUGUST 13: Ryan Lochte of the United States finishes the Men's 200m Backstroke Heat 6 in first place held at the National Aquatics Center on Day 5 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 13, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
' Ryan Lochte of USA displays his medal to the media photographers after receiving the Gold medal for the Men's 400m IM at the World Swimming Championships in Rome, Italy on Sunday, August 2, 2009. Photo Tim Clayton ' (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ryan Lochte attends Cocktails with a Cause benefitting Sophie's Voice Foundation at the Hearst Tower on September 14, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 690 -- Pictured: (l-r) Olympian Ryan Lochte during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on August 24, 2012 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Ryan Lochte appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
US swimmer Ryan Lochte reacts after he competed in the final of the men's 200-metre individual medley swimming event in the FINA World Championships at the indoor stadium of the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai on July 28, 2011. Lochte won the men's 200m individual medley in world record time, beating team-mate Michael Phelps. Lochte lowered his own record by one tenth of a second to 1min 54.00sec. AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 28: Ryan Lochte of the United States poses with his gold medal after winning in a new world record time the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final during Day Thirteen of the 14th FINA World Championships at the Oriental Sports Center on July 28, 2011 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 16: Ryan Lochte of USA reacts after swimming the last leg on the Men's 4x100m Medely Relay during day five of the 11th FINA Short Course World Championships at the Sinan Erdem Dome on December 16, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
US swimmer Michael Phelps (C) poses on the podium with the gold medal flanked by silver medalist US swimmer Ryan Lochte (R) and bronze medalist Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (L) after winning the men's 200m individual medley swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 2, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 21: Swimmer Ryan Lochte (L) and singer Miley Cyrus speak onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
Gold medalist US swimmer Ryan Lochte (C), silver medalist Japan's Kosuke Hagino (L) and bronze medalist Brazil's Thiago Pereira pose on the podium during the award ceremony of the men's 200-metre individual medley swimming event in the FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on August 1, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 06: Ryan Lochte of USA looks on after the Men's 100m Individual Medley heats on day four of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 6, 2014 in Doha, Qatar (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Ryan Lochte attends the 2015 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Awards at J.W. Marriot at L.A. Live on November 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/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)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 9: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Francis Haas (hidden) of Team USA celebrate winning the gold medal during the medal ceremony of the men's 200m freestyle relay on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2306' - The nine remaining celebrities ready themselves for one of the hottest nights in the ballroom - Latin Night - with each celebrity performing either a rumba, salsa, samba, paso dobl� cha cha or Argentine tango, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' live, MONDAY, OCTOBER 17 (8:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images) RYAN LOCHTE, CHERYL BURKE
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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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