Rajoy celebrates achievements of under-suspicion sporting heroes

“Behind all of this is a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifice,” PM says

King Juan Carlos greets Rafael Nadal in a ceremony to mark Spain’s fifth Davis Cup win.
King Juan Carlos greets Rafael Nadal in a ceremony to mark Spain’s fifth Davis Cup win.SUSANA VERA (REUTERS)

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday sang the praises of Spain’s long list of sporting heroes, who have been the satirical butt of late by a French television channel, which has been linking their achievements to doping.

“We are the country that has won most Roland Garros,” Rajoy said at a ceremony celebrating Spain’s fifth Davis Cup victory. “The biggest insult is faint praise,” he added.

Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was last week barred from the cycling world for two years after being found guilty of doping, sparking a wave of suspicion about how clean Spanish athletes are.

Canal+ France resorted to the burlesque in its satirical puppet show, portraying some of Spain’s sporting starts signing a petition backing Contador with syringes.

Making no mention of the parodies, Rajoy continued his paean to Spain’s sporting achievements. “Spain is a great country, a great nation, and it is so due to the Spanish, among them their sportspeople, who have raised our flag across the world, and who have made our country more respected,” he said. “Behind all of this is a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice.”

On a far less complacent note, Education, Culture and Sports Minister José Ignacio Wert on Tuesday acknowledged Spain’s problems with doping and pledged tighter legislation.

“We [...] have a problem with doping,” he said. “But we’re going to fix it as soon as possible, approving changes to the anti-doping law.”

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