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Spanish govt may sue French TV for doping skit

- Associated Press - Thursday, February 9, 2012

MADRID (AP) - The Spanish government is considering legal action against a French TV station that poked fun at alleged ties to doping by athletes.

Some of Spain's most famous athletes came out in defense of their achievements on Thursday. That's a day after the Spanish tennis federation announced plans to sue Canal Plus for a video skit that used its logo and made fun of Rafael Nadal and other athletes.

Jose Ignacio Wert, the minister for Education, Culture and Sport, called Canal Plus "intolerable" and "unsportsmanlike" for the satirical suggestion that Spanish athletes "don't win by chance."

After the Nadal skit on Monday, two more skits by Les Guignols (The Puppets) satirical program were released Wednesday. They took aim at recently banned Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, Spain's World Cup-winning soccer team and its European Championship-winning basketball squad.

Nadal, a six-time French Open champion, has been the butt of Les Guignols' jokes, appearing in two of the three clips. Last week, Contador received a two-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for a positive doping test he blamed on contaminated meat.

The latest video shows Spanish athletes signing a petition in support of Contador but using needles rather than pens, including Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, an unidentified basketball player and Nadal.

"It's not against me but against Spain in general," Nadal told reporters Thursday during practice at his home island of Mallorca. "With less, we've achieved more than they have, we're doing something better. It's not about pills or syringes."

The videos have drawn much publicity in Spain, with many media outlets countering with reports suggesting France is jealous of the country's achievements.

"It's an indiscriminate attack on Spanish sport that is completely false and doesn't correspond with reality," Wert said. "Several federations have already undertaken means of protest and the CSD is now studying it."

Spain's soccer team is the world and European champions, while Nadal holds 10 Grand Slams titles and helped the Davis Cup team to three titles since 2008.

Bernard Hinault was the last Frenchman to win the Tour in 1985, with Spanish cyclists winning 10 times since. Spanish tennis players have won 11 titles at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah's victory in 1983, the last for a Frenchman.

"It's in fashion to discredit champions with this theme of doping," said Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, a member of Spain's World Cup winning team. "To shut them up, we just have to keep winning."

Spain has often been accused of protecting its own in the face of doping charges, especially since the 2006 probe Operation Puerto, the biggest investigation into doping in cycling. That case implicated more than 50 cyclists. On Thursday, 1997 Tour champion Jan Ullrich was banned for two years for his involvement.

Contador, who is one of only five cyclists to have won all three of cycling's premier races, also was implicated in the case.

Wert said Spain was pushing through legislation to make sure anti-doping laws live up to the World Anti-Doping Agency's code. Madrid looks to bid for the 2020 Olympics.

Spanish Olympic Committee president and Madrid 2020 bid leader Alejandro Blanco said changes need to be made to WADA's doping code after Contador was banned for testing positive for a minuscule amount of clenbuterol on a 2010 Tour rest day.

"I would support a change in the anti-doping rules. One day they will set a barrier for clenbuterol and then from there down it won't be considered doping," Blanco said. "No one can accuse us of not being front and center in the fight against doping."

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