Juve, Ronaldo to avoid the US amid rape probe

Juventus have backed their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the wake of rape accusations levelled at him by an American woman.
Juventus have backed their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the wake of rape accusations levelled at him by an American woman.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Organisers of the International Champions Cup (ICC) - a high-profile summer tournament for the world's biggest football clubs - have decided to keep Juventus and their star Cristiano Ronaldo away from the United States this year, eliminating the risk of the Portuguese being detained by authorities as part of a rape investigation in Las Vegas.

While the bulk of the games of the annual tournament will take place in the US, Juventus will most likely take part in the Asian legs in China and Singapore, joined by Premier League teams Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, is playing in his first Italian Serie A season after joining Juventus from Real Madrid for more than US$114 million (S$155 million) last July.

Two months after his transfer, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said it had reopened an investigation into accusations by an American woman Kathryn Mayorga, who claimed Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009 and later paid her US$375,000 for her silence.

Ronaldo labelled it "fake news" and, at one point, his lawyers threatened to sue German magazine Der Spiegel who was the first to publish Mayorga's accusations.

It had obtained confidential documents related to the case, and the purported payment by Ronaldo to settle it, from whistleblower platform Football Leaks.

Juventus, who stood behind their star, have a multi-year agreement to play in the ICC, which is organised by New York-based Relevent Sports. Ronaldo's legal troubles played a role in shaping plans for Juventus' participation, according to people familiar with this summer's schedule, which will be released next week.

A spokesman for Juventus said "going east" to Asia was normal after spending recent pre-seasons in the US.

While pre-season tours are not seen as serious competition, they are vital for teams' preparations before the new season, and Juventus would have drawn unwanted scrutiny had it travelled to the US without Ronaldo.

Ronaldo, now 34, was playing for United when he met Mayorga, now 35, at a Las Vegas nightclub in 2009, just before his record-breaking transfer to Real.

She claimed Ronaldo invited her and others to his suite in the early hours of June 13, 2009 and he sexually assaulted her.

Ronaldo's lawyers have questioned the authenticity of some of the documents published by Der Spiegel, but have not denied that Ronaldo and Mayorga had a sexual encounter, which they contend was consensual.

NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2019, with the headline 'Juve, Ronaldo to avoid the US amid rape probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe