Prosecutors in Orange County, California are investigating whether they can bring any charges against a university employee who took pictures of teenage water polo players and then posted them on gay porn sites.

A 44-year-old man, reported to be a police dispatcher at the University of California Irvine, is not under formal investigation but has been put on paid leave.

As the photos were taken at public sporting events, he may be protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution protecting free speech.

Parents, coaches and politicians in southern California have condemned sexually explicit gay websites that feature photos of teenage boys playing water polo.

An investigation by the Orange County Register discovered photographs of players from eleven high schools in the area, some as young as 14, posted next to naked images of young men on a website registered in London.

Players from other California high schools were also found.

The paper reports that some of the boys are so traumatised by the discovery that they have needed counselling.

“We deplore the actions of individuals that have gone against the nature in which our sporting events are intended,” USA Water Polo said in a statement.

Coach Jason Lynch told dailypost.com: “The kids are being photographed for wearing normal water polo gear.

“It’s not like they’re going out of their way to wear something racy. Water polo players wear Speedos.

“Anybody can come to a public event and photograph it.

“They’re public websites. They’re not making money off it.”

Joan Gould, a spokeswoman for a group of Orange County water polo parents told the Register:

“For someone to come in and take what these kids are doing and take it out of context and exploit these images, these kids and their schools, because you can see the school name on the caps, is just horrible.”