Ryan Lochte initially resisted a group of armed men posing as police who robbed the Olympic gold medalist and three fellow American swimmers in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Lochte said in an interview broadcast on Monday on the "Today" show.
The robbery of Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen early Sunday, as they returned in a taxi to their hotels after a night of partying, has fed concern over safety at the first Olympic Games in South America.
"We got pulled over in our taxi and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge," 32-year-old Lochte said in his first interview about the crime. "They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground, they got down on the ground."
But Lochte, among the most successful male swimmers in Olympic history, said he initially refused.
"I was like, we didn't do anything wrong, so I'm not getting down on the ground," Lochte said in the interview conducted at a Rio beach. "And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead."
At that point, Lochte said he complied.
"I put my hands up, and was like, 'Whatever.'"
The gunmen stole their cash and wallets, he said. They let the swimmers keep their cell phones and credentials.
Lochte released a statement on Sunday, in which he said: "What is most important is that we are safe and unharmed."
Witnesses said the four swimmers left a club hosting a French Games delegation party early on Sunday, bought popcorn from a street vendor and then got into a taxi cab, Today reported.
Rio police have said they plan to interview the swimmers as part of their investigation into the robbery. All four athletes are cooperating with authorities, U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.
The incident stoked worries over the safety of competitors and visitors to Rio, which has a long history of violent crime, though Brazil's sports minister insisted that athletes who remained on the Olympic site had experienced no problems.
"The security operation for these Games has been totally effective," Leonardo Picciani told reporters. "No athlete has had problems in their place of residence, in training or in the Athletes' Village."
In addition to the swimmers, Swedish tourists were briefly abducted when they visited a slum, Portugal's visiting education minister was robbed at knife point, bullets flew into the equestrian centre and a Games bus was attacked with stones.
Fellow American swimmers Ryan Murphy and Nathan Adrian told reporters that they felt security for the Games was adequate, despite the incident.
"Rio is an amazing city. There are going to be problems anywhere you go and we've been briefed on how to mitigate those risks as best possible," Adrian told a news conference.