The college sports coach at the heart of the child sex scandal that has engulfed Penn State University has admitted to "horsing around" with boys in showers and changing rooms but insists that he is innocent of the paedophile charges laid against him this month.
Jerry Sandusky, 67, former assistant American football coach, was pressed in an interview on NBC to comment on the often lurid details in a grand jury indictment against him, which includes the allegation that he raped an underage boy.
He said: "I could say I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered [with them] after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."
The interview, arranged by his lawyer, Joe Amendola, 63, who was himself dealing with reports that he made a teenage girl pregnant a decade ago, added fuel to the scandal. The previously beloved chief coach at the university, Joe Paterno, has stepped down amid concerns that officials knew of Mr Sandusky's behaviour and did not respond adequately.
In the midst of the NBC interview conducted by telephone, Mr Sandusky, who is free on bail, was asked plainly if he was attracted to underage boys. He replied in the negative but not at once. "Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. Um, I, I, but no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."
The case has taken on such stature in the US in part because of the reverence paid to the major university football teams and therefore to the coaches that lead them.