NEWS & NOTES
Alleged Extortion Scheme Sends Ronaldo Into Hiding
Ronaldo went into hiding yesterday after a run-in with cross-dressing prostitutes that prompted police to investigate whether to charge one with trying to extort money from the striker.
The AC Milan player, in Brazil recovering from knee surgery, canceled two TV appearances, and local media reports said he will continue physiotherapy at his home.
Police said Ronaldo committed no crime, but he was accused by one prostitute of using drugs and not wanting to pay.
Prostitution is legal in Brazil.
"It is necessary to clarify that no formal accusations were made against Ronaldo," read a statement on the player's Web site. "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, a three-time FIFA player of the year, acknowledged to police that he knew they were prostitutes but did not realize they were cross-dressers until getting to a motel early Monday, when one allegedly tried to extort him to hide the story from reporters, according to police.
Police released more details yesterday, 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 prostitutes after realizing they were men.
She told police that 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 prostitute asked for 50,000 reals (almost $30,000) to keep the story from reporters, according to the police document.
A motel waiter, who was not identified in the police documents, told police that the prostitute went to the street and yelled, "The Phenomenon didn't want to pay."
· AUTO RACING: Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., will have a SAFER barrier along the inside wall of its backstretch by the time the track opens for NASCAR racing next month.
An additional 340 feet of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers are being installed, and track president H.A."Humpy" Wheeler said the project will be completed in time for the All-Star Race on May 17. The track has had a SAFER barrier on part of the inside backstretch wall coming out of Turn 2, but none heading into Turn 3. . . .
Ken Schrader will replace the injured Dario Franchitti in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. Franchitti broke his left ankle last Saturday in a hard crash at Talladega Superspeedway.
· TENNIS: Wimbledon agreed to equal pay for men and women, phased out curtsies to the Royal Box and is building a retractable roof over Centre Court.
Some things, however, won't change.
Wimbledon officials ruled out scheduling matches on the middle Sunday -- except as an "emergency option" in the event of a major weather backlog -- and said the tournament will not follow the lead of the French Open by starting on a Sunday.
Wimbledon also announced champions each will receive $1.49 million this year, an increase of 5.8 percent.
-- From News Services