Olympian Klete Keller charged with taking part in US Capitol riot
Five-time Olympic swimming medalist Klete Keller was charged Wednesday with participating in a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol after video emerged that appeared to show him among those storming the building last week.
An FBI complaint filed in U.S. District Court, citing screenshots from the video, requested a warrant charging Keller with knowingly entering a restricted building to impede an official government function, disorderly conduct, and obstructing law officers during the frightening ordeal.
It wasn't clear if he had been taken into custody.
Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 while lawmakers met to formalize the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
The 38-year-old Keller competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics. He captured two golds and a silver as a member of the 800-meter freestyle relay, as well as a pair of individual bronzes in the 400 free.
Messages seeking comment were not returned by Keller or his sister, former Olympic swimmer Kalyn Keller.
“We respect private individuals’ and groups’ rights to peacefully protest but in no way condone the actions taken by those at the Capitol last week,” USA Swimming said in a statement, noting that Keller has not been a member of the organization since he retired after the 2008 Beijing Games.
Keller’s alleged participation in the Capitol protest was first reported this week by SwimSwam, a site dedicated to covering competitive swimming and other aquatic sports.
It pointed to video posted to social media by Townhall reporter Julio Rosas, which showed a tall man wearing a U.S. Olympic team jacket among the rioters as officers attempted to clear the Rotunda.
SwimSwam said at least a dozen people within the sport have identified the man as Keller after reviewing the video and screenshots.
The FBI affidavit specifically cited screenshots that show the person identified as Keller wearing the distinctive jacket.
It also noted that the former swimmer is listed as 6-foot-6, and the person in the video “appears to be one of the tallest individuals in the video depicting individuals in the Rotunda.”
Keller trained for several years under coach Bob Bowman, who is best known as the longtime coach and mentor of Michael Phelps, winner of the most gold medals in Olympic history.
Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, denounced the melee that left five people dead.
“I strongly condemn the actions of the rioters at the U.S. Capitol," she said in a statement. “They do not represent the values of the United States of America or of Team USA."
Hirshland went on to say, "At home, and around the world, Team USA athletes are held to a very high standard as they represent our country on the field of play and off. What happened in Washington, D.C., was a case where that standard was clearly not met. The people involved attacked the very fabric of the democracy we all proudly represent and, in turn, also let our community down. I urge everyone associated with Team USA to continue to celebrate our diversity of background and beliefs, stand together against hatred and divisiveness, and use our influence to create positive change in our community.”
Keller's social media accounts have been shut down, but they reportedly showed he was an outspoken supporter of Trump.
Keller's athletic achievements are unlikely to be affected by the charges, though he could be shunned by USA Swimming and the USOPC at promotional events and other functions featuring former Olympians.
The International Olympic Committee has only stripped medals from athletes who violated doping rules or other regulations during competition.
Keller, who grew up in Arizona, was working in Colorado as an independent contractor for real estate firm Hoff & Leigh, which said on its web site that he advised "industrial landlords and sellers on maximizing the value of their industrial asset.”
Hoff & Leigh released a statement to SwimSwam on Tuesday saying Keller has resigned.
“Hoff & Leigh supports the right of free speech and lawful protest,” the company said. “But we cannot condone actions that violate the rule of law.”
A longtime stalwart of the U.S. national team, Keller was a member of 800 free relay teams that helped Phelps win two of his record 23 gold medals.
Keller anchored the winning team at the 2004 Athens Games, which also included Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay. Keller posted the fastest split in the group.
Four years later, Keller anchored the relay during the preliminaries, powering the Americans to the fastest time, but he didn't compete in the final. Phelps, Lochte, Ricky Berens and Vanderkaay turned in a world-record performance that was part of Phelps' record eight gold medals in Beijing.
Keller struggled to adjust to post-Olympic life.
In interviews with the Olympic Channel podcast and USA Swimming, he admitted to being a poor employee and feeling entitled because of his athletic success. The problems carried over to his personal life, which resulted in a divorce that left him living in his car for 10 months and a loss of visitation rights that prevented him from seeing his children for years.
He credited his family and specifically his sister for helping him get his life back on track.