This story has been updated throughout.
James Feigen is one of the many Texans to have earned himself a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. But he was the first Lone Star athlete to have his passport ordered seized because of his involvement in what Rio authorities are calling a fabricated report of a robbery. A search and seizure warrant was issued on Wednesday for both Feigen and fellow swimmer Ryan Lochte—who had already left the country—because of conflicting statements that the two gave about the incident that they claim occurred on Saturday night.
Speaking to the San Antonio Express-News by phone from Rio, Feigen told the paper that he was being “shitstormed” after news broke that there were bizarre inconsistencies in the stories of two of the swimmers who claimed to have been robbed—Feigen and fellow gold medalist Ryan Lochte—and that a search and seizure warrant had been issued for both of the athletes. By Wednesday night, the other two swimmers with them that night—Gunnar Bentz and Texas swimmer Jack Conger—had been pulled off their plane by authorities for further questioning. All three remain in Rio, and might not be able to leave anytime soon.
Lochte told authorities that the group was robbed by one gunman, while Feigen said that they were robbed by multiple attackers. (Bentz and Conger weren’t immediately questioned.) No witnesses have been found, including the driver of the taxi the group claimed they had been in when they were ambushed by the criminal(s). Lochte told police that he couldn’t remember what kind of taxi they had been in, or what color it was—which, to be fair, sounds entirely plausible to anyone who’s ever heard Ryan Lochte interviewed before—but that the assailant(s) had pulled them out of the car by pretending to be police.
On Thursday, news broke that CCTV footage existed of the four swimmers involved in a violent incident at a gas station on the night they reported being robbed. According to police, the video shows one or more of the athletes breaking down a door at the business and fighting with a security guard. Lochte and Feigen told authorities that they were at the gas station when they were robbed.
Whatever happened, surveillance video shows that Feigen, Lochte, and their teammates returned to their hotel in good spirits. Rather than report the incident to police, they just talked about it in the media. “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,” Lochte told the Today show. “I was like ‘whatever.'”
Feigen isn’t the same sort of superstar that Lochte is, but the UT grad and alum of Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio is one of the three who are stuck in Rio to face the very bizarre accusation of having fabricated a robbery.
We don’t know if Feigen and Lochte made up the story they told authorities over the weekend about having been robbed, or if they were—as they both claimed—just quite extraordinarily drunk at the time. But the evidence of the incident at the gas station suggests a possible motive for claiming that they had actually robbed at gunpoint by hostile Brazilian attackers.
Regardless of the ultimate conclusion, it’s been a weird couple of days for Feigen, Conger, and Bentz. They went from winning Olympic gold to being held in Brazil in the center of a “shitstorm,” while their teammate Lochte is a fugitive from the country. We have literally no idea what might happen next in this story, but we’ll certainly be watching with rapt attention.