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SPORTS

Nadal launches broadside on doping slur in ‘L’Équipe’

World number two lets loose over Canal + France satire show

Rafa Nadal will open his challenge to claim the Miami Masters title — one of only four 1000-level trophies to elude the Spaniard, along with Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris — against either fellow countryman Pablo Andújar or Colombia's Santiago Giraldo in the second round in Florida. He could well meet Frenchman Michael Llodra in round four, but then the world number two has already taken on France in an interview with L'Équipe, in which he expressed his reaction to the now-infamous portrayal of Spanish athletes as dope cheats on a Canal+ France satirical puppet show.

The backlash in Spain over the depiction of Spanish athletes on the television show Les Guinols de línfo was swift and complete. Letters of complaint were sent at diplomatic level and even then prime ministerial candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba poked fun at the neighboring country by pointing out that Spaniards win all of their major sporting events. The sketches, which were published in the wake of Alberto Contador's sanction for a doping infringement, featured Nadal urinating into the gas tank of his car, which then hurtled off at speed, the tennis star, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas and a Spanish basketball player signing messages of support for Contador with a syringe, and also one showing French people 'contributing' to Contador's Tour wins by donating their blood.

"I would never accuse anyone without proof," Nadal said. "The problem in France, and I don't know why, is that they mistrust everybody. It didn't make me laugh, but everybody has their sense of humor. Every country has different humor and the French and the Spanish one is not the same. There is a part of the population that does not understand what professional sport is like or how anti-doping controls work; they are practically daily and we have to be locatable 365 days a year," the six-time French Open champion said.

"Maybe I am being naive, but it is better that I am. I'm so far removed from the world of doping that my lack of knowledge is complete. I do not accept that they label me as a doper when since the age of seven I have worked thousands of hours every fucking day. It's tiring, at the end of the day," Nadal said, adding that tennis is a "clean sport."

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