RIO DE JANEIRO—A Brazilian judge authorized an investigation into whether U.S. Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen broke the law by giving a false account of a crime, citing contradictions in their testimony over an alleged armed robbery.
In a court order dated Wednesday and seen by The Wall Street Journal, Judge Keyla Blanc De Cnop also banned Messrs. Lochte and Feigen from leaving Brazil. However, Mr. Lochte’s father said in a text message Wednesday that his son was already “back in the U.S.,” and a United States Olympic Committee official said the U.S. swim team moved out of the Athletes’ Village after their competition ended Saturday. Mr. Feigen’s whereabouts were unknown.
The judge said discrepancies in the testimony of the two swimmers, combined with footage obtained by the police showing them leisurely returning to the Athletes’ Village with two other teammates following the alleged incident, are sufficient grounds for prosecutors to look into whether the swimmers broke the law by giving a false account of a crime. Under the Brazilian penal code, a conviction could lead to a fine or one to six months in jail.
The judge said based on the footage, “the victims arrived with their physical and psychological integrity unshaken, even joking with one another.” Further diligence is required to clarify the case, the judge said.
The ruling escalates tensions that have been simmering for several days.
The International Olympic Committee, citing the USOC, initially denied a report Sunday that Mr. Lochte and three other swimmers were in a taxi that was robbed at gunpoint by men presenting themselves as police. The USOC later issued a statement confirming the incident, and Mr. Lochte repeated the account in an interview with NBC.
Police in Rio have been asking increasingly terse questions that suggest they are skeptical about the facts of the alleged incident.
A police official said Tuesday that they weren’t able to reach Mr. Lochte and Mr. Feigen’s fellow swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, when they went to the Athletes’ Village on Monday to obtain their testimony. He said that the police were informed unofficially that the athletes had left the country and that police were trying to confirm the information with U.S. authorities.
Mr. Feigen’s mother and one of his swim coaches didn’t return requests for comment.
USOC Chief External Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky confirmed in a statement that police went to the Olympic Village on Wednesday morning to secure further testimony from the two swimmers and to collect their passports.
“The swim team moved out of the village after their competition ended, so we were not able to make the athletes available,” Mr. Sandusky said.
“Additionally, as part of our standard security protocol, we do not make athlete travel plans public and therefore cannot confirm the athletes’ current location. We will continue to cooperate with Brazilian authorities,” he added.
A representative for USA Swimming said it is up to each individual athlete to decide when after his or her competition ends to leave the Olympics.
Mr. Lochte, a veteran of four Olympics, and the three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday when their taxi was stopped on their way to the Athletes’ Village, according to the USOC.
The teammates had left a party at France House in Rio de Janeiro’s southern area and were headed to the Athletes’ Village, which is located in the western neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca, the USOC said in the Sunday statement. It said the swimmers were robbed of their money and other personal belongings. Police opened an investigation Sunday after hearing about the incident through media reports.
The court’s decision comes as police are trying to clarify several points.
First, while Mr. Lochte told police there was more than one robber, Mr. Feigen reported the presence of only one, according to the court order and police officers.
The swimmers also said in their testimony that cellphones weren’t taken, something uncommon in Rio, where phone robberies are on the rise, and unusual for robbers as their victims would have been able to reach out to authorities immediately afterward.
Wednesday’s court order also said that while the swimmers said they left the party at around 4 a.m., camera footage shows a different time. It didn’t elaborate.
Security footage from the Athletes’ Village obtained by the police shows the swimmers arriving at 6:56 a.m. Sunday, according to the officer, almost three hours after they said they had left the party. The officer said it shouldn’t have taken the athletes that long to get to the village even if they had been robbed on the way.
The officer said the footage also showed at least one of the athletes still wearing a watch, a typical target in robberies.