Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Spain defends ‘authenticity’ of sports record

AFP, Madrid

Spain vowed on Friday to defend the “authenticity” of its sports stars’ achievements after a French satirical puppet show implied tennis great Rafael Nadal and other athletes are drug cheats.

The sketches on France’s Canal+ television show Les Guignols whipped up a storm of outrage in Spain, prompting its foreign minister to order a formal protest to French media.

One sketch featured a puppet likeness of world No. 2 Nadal refueling the tank of his car from his own bladder, a fill-up which powers up the car and leads to him being pulled over by police.

In another, a satirical advertisement asks people to donate blood to cycling champion Alberto Contador, who has been slapped with a two-year doping ban, and thus share in the glory of his cycling victories.

“We don’t understand or agree that certain media in our neighboring country have carried out such an attack,” Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said in a reference to the sketches.

“The government will of course defend the authenticity of the achievements of our athletes. Many of them are an example of persistence and they defend their country wherever they go,” she said following a Cabinet meeting.

The deputy prime minister also defended Spain’s record in the fight against doping.

“Spain is a country which respects anti-doping rules. If you analyze the average number of sentences for this type of behavior, we are very much below this average,” she said.

Canal+ began airing the sketches on Monday after the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport that day handed a two-year ban to Tour de France winner Contador after he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.

Contador says it was due to a contaminated steak eaten during the 2010 Tour de France, one of three editions of the race that he won. He said on Tuesday that his lawyers were looking into a possible appeal.

He posted a photo of himself on his official Twitter account on Friday riding his bike with the message: “Have returned to work. Sacrifice and hard training, that is the only secret.”

Nadal also reacted to the sketches, saying the Les Guignols show is a repeat offender.

“One day is okay, but when, from what I understand, it is done repeatedly then that is not so good because it crosses the line a bit. And it is always with the same focus,” the 25-year-old said, adding he had not seen the sketches.

Nadal said Canal+ alone was not to blame.

“I don’t think it is only Canal+ that does it. I think there are other media pushing it along and I think that is something punishable because in Spain sportspeople who are not clean are punished, they don’t compete,” Nadal said.

“It is a globalized campaign from the neighboring country,” he added. “With a lot less resources than them we have achieved much more in the last years so we are doing something better — it is not a question of pills or syringes, I can assure you.”

The front page of top-selling Spanish sports daily Marca ran a drawing of Spain’s sporting heroes, including the World Cup-winning soccer players with the headline: “They Are Not Puppets.”

On Thursday, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia--Margallo said he had instructed the Spanish ambassador to France to send a written protest to French media, including to Canal+.

Spain’s tennis federation said the previous day it would sue Canal+ for using its logo in the comedy sketches.

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