Soccer legend Pele wept on Tuesday when he visited his son, who is in police custody in Brazil on suspicion of drug trafficking, and said he regretted he had failed to see Edinho was using narcotics.
Edson Cholbi Nascimento, 34, known as Edinho, was arrested on Monday along with 51 others in the port city of Santos.
He was being held at the anti-narcotics police headquarters in the state capital, Sao Paulo.
In a letter released by his lawyer, Edinho, a former goalkeeper for Santos soccer club, said he was dependent on marijuana but denied being involved with drug traffickers.
Police said that based on tapped phone calls they believed that Edinho was involved with major cocaine traffickers.
Pele visited Edinho on Tuesday and told reporters afterward: "As you know I am a very emotional person and when I saw Edinho, I had nothing to say. I just embraced him and cried all the time, saying that I would try to help him overcome this problem.
"Perhaps because I was working so much I didn't see this. It's sad that because of my intense campaign against drugs I could not see what was happening in my own house," said Pele, who is still a national hero and prominent public figure years after his retirement.
Edinho said he experimented with drugs as a teenager but the situation got out of control when he stopped playing for Santos in 1999. Suffering from a knee injury, he fell into a depression, he said.
"Today I am at the bottom. This is a moment when I can see that the path of drugs was a mistake and I ask for help and forgiveness from my family," he said.
Anti-narcotics police chief Ivaney Caires de Souza said there were indications Edinho was connected to Ronaldo Duarte Barsotti de Freitas, or Naldinho, who was also arrested in the sweep and is accused of heading a drugs trafficking and money-laundering ring with links to the notorious Red Command and First Capital Command gangs.
The Red Command is the most powerful of the gangs that have terrorized Rio de Janeiro and the First Capital Command operates in Sao Paulo, control center for international drug routes through Brazil.
Police said Edinho spoke several times with Naldinho on how to invest money. With another underworld figure, he spoke about the drug gang wars, "showing knowledge about the subject and concern for his friends," a police statement said.
Pele said that he was friends with Naldinho's father, ex-Santos player Pitico.
"Edinho knows nothing about these tapes. When he hears them, he is going to speak to the police and explain what happened," Pele said.Pele, considered the greatest soccer player of all time, played most of his career at Santos. He won the World Cup three times with Brazil and was later sports minister.