Former world champion surfer Mark Occhilupo, of Australia, was held by Rio de Janeiro police yesterday after allegedly smoking marijuana before a stage of the championship.

Occhilupo - nicknamed Occy - the 1999 champion and runner-up last year, reportedly accepted a joint offered by a fan before competing, and was immediately surrounded by police.

The Australian said he did not know that marijuana was illegal in Brazil and was allowed to compete after the crowd protested when police tried to arrest him.

Occhilupo finished second behind fellow Australian Trent Munro.