Jason Lee, a New Zealand-born jujitsu fighter based in Rio de Janeiro, said he was "kidnapped" Saturday by armed men dressed in police uniforms and forced to withdraw money from two separate ATMs to pay for his release.
The 27-year-old, who will not be competing in the Olympics but has been living in Brazil for the past 10 months, tweeted Sunday: "What did you guys get up to yesterday? I got kidnapped. Go Olympics! #Rio2016."
Later, in an interview with stuff.co.nz, the martial arts athlete explained in further detail how the incident developed from what appeared to be a routine traffic stop by two policemen on motorbikes.
"First, he asked me to stretch my arms, then patted me down," Lee said. "At this point, it still looked reasonably professional."
However, after the policemen searched the New Zealander's rental car, one of the cops returned brandishing a large book and told Lee he was breaking the law.
"He says, 'You can't drive in Brazil as a foreigner without a passport,' which I now know isn't the case at all. The rental car company hadn't mentioned that to me. He starts opening the book, showing me all these passages in Portuguese, which I can sort of read, like, every third word."
The men then demanded that Lee pay them 2000 Brazilian reals ($615) or face a night in a Rio jail.
What did you guys get up to yesterday?
I got kidnapped. Go Olympics!#Rio2016
- Jason Lee (@jasonleejitsu) July 24, 2016
"At this point, I acknowledged to myself that I've completely backed myself into a corner," Lee said. "These guys have pulled me over. They have weapons. I'm not in any position to negotiate.
"I don't think I've ever felt like I could possibly die."
Lee, who was not carrying any money at the time, was forced to drive to a nearby police bunker underneath an overpass, where he was swapped into an unmarked private car and taken to two ATMs to withdraw enough money to pay the officers.
Once he returned to the bunker, Lee handed over the money and was finally released.
"[They] said, 'You can't say anything to anyone about this -- not a word,'" Lee said.
The jujitsu fighter did, however, report the incident to the Rio authorities.
"I was umming and ahhing about whether I should even make a complaint. One of the guys I was reporting it to said, 'We understand you are hesitant because we are the police, and that branch of the police is so scary, even we are afraid of them.'"
The incident is the latest in a string of setbacks ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. One month ago, an Australian Paralympic sailor and official were threatened with a gun and robbed before a race in Rio.