Brazilian star Ronaldo says he's sorry, embarrassed and ashamed about his highly publicized encounter a week ago with three cross-dressing prostitutes, calling it the biggest mistake of his life.
In an interview on Brazil's Globo TV, the AC Milan striker on Sunday denied claims by one of the prostitutes that he had sex with them and used drugs, but admitted the incident will haunt the rest of his career.
"It was an isolated and stupid act," the three-time FIFA Player of the Year said on Globo's hugely popular "Fantastico" program. "I'm sorry and ashamed."
In a halting voice, Ronaldo said he wasn't aware the prostitutes were cross-dressers until he got to a motel with them, discovered they were men and decided not to have sex with them because he is heterosexual.
Ronaldo, who is recovering from knee surgery in Brazil, also said he had been drinking earlier that night after watching Rio's Flamengo win against rival Botafogo _ but was not drunk.
"I made the stupidest mistake ever of my personal life," he said. "Anyone can make a mistake, and I made a big mistake."
Police are investigating to determine whether an extortion attempt was made against Ronaldo, but have said he committed no crime. Prostitution is legal in Brazil.
The television appearance by Ronaldo was his first in public since last Tuesday, when he went into hiding after the run-in with the prostitutes, who created a brief media sensation in Brazil with days of high-profile interviews.
The comments by Ronaldo to Globo jibed with his statement last week to police and with interviews conducted with detectives.
The motel manager _ identified only as Luisa _ said Ronaldo, who was dressed and appeared to be sober, tried to get rid of the prostitutes after realizing 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 Brazilian reals for Ronaldo, but before he made the payment one prostitute asked for $30,000 to keep the story from the media, according to a police document.
Ronaldo is a fan of Flamengo and has said he wants to play for the Brazilian club before retiring. He has won two World Cups with Brazil, including in 2002 when he scored eight goals, two in the final against Germany.
Ronaldo told Globo TV that his contract with AC Milan ends in June, but that he won't start negotiating his comeback with any teams until he recovers from his injury.
"I'm sure the doors of Flamengo will be open for me," he said.