Ronaldo in hiding after incident with sex-workers

Ronaldo went into hiding on Tuesday after an encounter with cross-dressing sex-workers that prompted police to investigate whether to charge one with trying to extort money from the three-time Fifa player of the year.

The AC Milan striker, in Brazil recovering from a knee surgery, cancelled two TV appearances, and local media said he will continue physiotherapy at his home.

Police said Ronaldo committed no crime, but he was accused by one sex-worker of using drugs and not wanting to pay.

Sex-work is legal in Brazil.

”It is necessary to clarify that no formal accusations were made against Ronaldo,” read a statement on the player’s website. ”An advocate of social causes, Ronaldo has never used drugs and has always been admired by children in Brazil and around the world. There are indications of an extortion attempt in which the Milan striker is the only victim.”

Ronaldo acknowledged to police he knew they were sex-workers but did not realise they were cross-dressers until getting to a motel in the early hours on Monday morning, when one allegedly tried to extort money from him to hide the story from the media, according to police.

Police released more details on Tuesday, and the Associated Press reviewed witnesses’ accounts to authorities.

The motel manager — identified only as Luisa — said Ronaldo, who was dressed and appeared to be sober, tried to get rid of the sex-workers after realising they were men.

She told police Ronaldo offered the prostitutes $600 to end the incident but they would not accept dollars. The manager then converted the money into reals for Ronaldo, but before he made the payment one sex-worker asked for 50 000 reals ($30 000) to keep the story from the media, according to the police document.

A motel waiter, who was not identified in the police documents, told police the sex-worker went to the street and yelled ”the Phenomenon didn’t want to pay”.

Witnesses also said the sex-worker who asked for 50 000 reals ripped out the phone wires to keep Ronaldo from calling for help, and broke into his car to steal his belongings, according to police documents.

That sex-worker later showed local media a vehicle document belonging to Ronaldo.

Police inspector Carlos Augusto Nogueira said there was no evidence drugs were involved in the incident.

But he said Ronaldo and the sex-workers must return to the police station for further questioning next week. Nogueira added the one prostitute might be charged with extortion. Ronaldo will not be charged, Nogueira said, unless he threatened to physically assault the sex-workers, as one hinted.

The case made front-page headlines in several Brazilian newspapers on Tuesday. And a brief video clip of Ronaldo at the motel, apparently recorded by one of the sex-workers, became a big hit in Brazil after being posted on YouTube.

”It’s really a soap opera,” said 48-year-old Luiz Mendes, a private chauffeur. ”Ronaldo has money to fill mattresses. He can afford the best and most beautiful women in the world. Why would he want to go out with these (sex-workers).”

Some Brazilians defended the star.

”It’s no surprise they are on the front page of all newspapers,” said 27-year-old Catia Lopes, a bakery-shop worker. ”But I don’t think Ronaldo’s image was hurt. For me he is still the same person.”

Ronaldo’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to an e-mail from the Associated Press.

Ronaldo was out reportedly celebrating Flamengo’s 1-0 victory over rival Botafogo in the first leg of the Rio de Janeiro state final.

Ronaldo is a fan of Flamengo and has said he wants to play for the Brazilian club before retiring. He was at Maracana stadium to watch Sunday’s match.

The player told reporters during the match that he could be back in action in six months if his recovery continues to go as planned.

Ronaldo has won two World Cups with Brazil, including in 2002 when he scored eight goals, including two in the final against Germany. – Sapa-AP

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