By Nathalie Malinarich
BBC News Online
'I was always outrageous,' says the former bodybuilder
It has been a tough week for actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
California's most famous candidate for governor has come under pressure over a 1977 interview in which he boasted about taking part in group sex and drug use.
Mr Schwarzenegger's defence is: "I never lived my life to be a politician. I never lived my life to be the governor of California."
And that points to another problem with the former bodybuilder's campaign according to his critics - including fellow Republicans - who increasingly accuse him of being short on policy proposals and unwilling to engage in debate.
With about six weeks to go to California's election for governor, opinion polls published in the local press suggest Mr Schwarzenegger - who has a top team of advisers and the backing of President Bush - is losing steam.
The surveys suggest he has lost his position as frontrunner in the 7 October race to the leading Democratic candidate, Cruz Bustamante, the grandson of Mexican immigrants.
'Grass and hash'
Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger was 29 years old and single when he was interviewed by adult magazine Oui, and was appearing in Pumping Iron, a documentary on the bodybuilding circuit.
"Bodybuilders party a lot, and once in Gold's (a California gym) there was a black girl who came out naked. Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together," he told the now-defunct publication.
Asked whether he used drugs he replied: "Yes, grass and hash - but no hard drugs."
When the interview - flagged on the cover as "Arnold Schwarzenegger on the sex secrets of bodybuilders" - was dug up last week, questions about the candidate's colourful past were inevitably raised.
Mr Schwarzenegger tried to laugh away questions about the matter on Wednesday during an interview with a conservative radio talk show host.
"Obviously, I've made statements that were ludicrous and crazy and outrageous and all those things, because that's the way I always was," he said.
"I was always outrageous, otherwise I wouldn't have done the things that I did in my career, with the bodybuilding and the show business and all those things. I was always out there."
Schwarzenegger's campaign is running out of steam, polls suggest
However, that explanation does not appear to have satisfied a prominent religious coalition which has called on the Republican candidate to set the record straight.
"We are very concerned about the report of Arnold's promiscuity and he must come forward and tell us if it stopped when he was 29 or if it continued," said the head of the Traditional Values Coalition, the Reverend Louis Sheldon.
Others are seeking clarifications from Mr Schwarzenegger on other issues.
A fellow Republican, State Senator Tom McClintock, reportedly told one of his aides that he was "not interested in Arnold's sex life. What I'm interested in is Arnold's secret political views," according to the Mercury News.
As the recall election nears, Mr Schwarzenegger has been criticised for saying little about his plans for tackling the budget crisis which afflicts the world's fifth largest economy.
"Arnold not debating is creating more questions about him than about the other candidates," says Mr McClintock's aide, Jon Feliz.
The Hollywood star is under fire for not agreeing to take part in the first election debate which is due to take place on 3 September in northern California.
According to the Mercury News, Mr Schwarzenegger is the only major candidate not to confirm his participation in next week's debate.
And that, says an aide to one of his rivals, makes the Terminator actor a "scaredy cat".