Fri, Apr 01, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Olympic Committee head wants Nadal as flag-bearer in Rio

AP, MADRID

Spanish Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco would like to see Rafael Nadal as the country’s flag-bearer in Rio de Janeiro, in part to make a statement after recent doping accusations made against him.

It is up to a group of federation presidents to pick the flag-bearer, but Blanco said on Wednesday that Nadal deserves to be chosen for what he has done for Spanish sports.

The former top-ranked tennis player was supposed to be the flag-bearer at the 2012 London Olympics, but got injured before the Games and was replaced by NBA player Pau Gasol.

Blanco also said Spain has been getting a bad reputation related to doping and called for the government to adapt to new requirements by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which earlier this month declared the nation a non-compliant with its regulations.

Speaking at a media event in Madrid, Blanco said having Nadal as Spain’s flag bearer would be important after the recent doping accusations made by former French minister for health and sport Roselyne Bachelot, who claimed on French television that the Spaniard’s seven-month injury hiatus in 2012 was “probably due to a positive doping test.”

“Spanish sports owe him a lot,” Blanco said. “In Beijing, he was the athlete who was followed the most by the international media and by other athletes. Rafa Nadal took Spanish sports to another level. I think he should be the flag bearer, especially after how he has been treated. He deserves to feel that Spanish sports care about him.”

A 14-time Grand Slam champion and gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics, Nadal has been one of the country’s biggest sports idols in recent years.

“Nadal is a reference,” Blanco said. “He was picked as the flag bearer for London, he should be picked again for Rio.”

Speaking about the new WADA requirements, Blanco said it was unacceptable for Spain to be unable to adapt its doping laws. He said that the government’s lack of action was hurting the image of the athletes abroad.

“Every country has adapted to the new code, there is no reason why we cannot do it as well,” Blanco said.

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