The popular French satirical television show known as “Les Guignols de l’Info” has broadcast a controversial video skit implying athletes from neighboring Spain are using anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. The skit displayed the logos of ten different Spanish sports federations including tennis, cycling and soccer. At least one of the federations planned to sue the French network Canal+ for slander and the unauthorized use of their logo.
The Real Federación Española de Tenis (RFET), which oversees tennis in Spain, was upset that the skit featured one of its top players Rafael Nadal. The skit featured a life-size puppet representation of Rafa Nadal that resembled a heavily-muscled competitive bodybuilder. Nadal was shown urinating into the gas tank of his Land Rover prior to being pulled over for speeding by French police. The segment included the statement “Spanish athletes: they don’t win by chance” among Spanish federation logos.
“On this occasion, acceptable limits have been breached, and we, as a tennis federation, cannot tolerate such slander and injury toward our athletes,” José Luis Escañuela, the RFET president, said in a statement.
Nadal has never failed a drug test and the evidence suggesting he is guilty of steroid use is based primarily on his physical appearance. While he has good muscle tone and definition, his physique isn’t considered very muscular by bodybuilding standards. Nonetheless, the fact that Nadal may be more muscular than most of his competitors on the tennis circuit has raised some eyebrows.
Nadal has been a popular target of the French who are very familiar with him due to his six French Open grand slam titles. Seven-time Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong was once a popular target of the French as well. Now that Armstrong has retired, the French have redirected their doping accusations to Spain and, in particular, Rafael Nadal.
Last fall, retired French tennis superstar Yannick Noah wrote an editorial suggesting that the greater muscularity of Spanish athletes over French athletes was proof of steroid use.
“[Yannick Noah] does not deserve to write in newspapers anymore,” responded Nadal. “What he said is completely stupid.”
The French have little room to speak when it comes to doping and their athletes. If a female version of Lance Armstrong exists anywhere in the world, it is in the form of 53-year old Jeannie Longo of France.
Longo is widely considered the greatest female cyclist in history. However, she had been the subject of a scandalous doping investigation last year after she allegedly missed several anti-doping tests. Fédération Française de Cyclisme, the French Cycling Federation, cleared Longo the doping charges.
Joe Papp, an amateur cyclist convicted of selling steroids and other PEDs to athletes in cycling and other sports, had publicly named Jeannie Longo’s husband and trainer as one of his former customers. Patrice Ciprelli allegedly purchased EPO for his wife.
This month, Ciprelli was detained by French gendarmes and interrogated about allegations that he smuggled “poisonous substances” to be used by athletes in the absence of any medical justification.
The Jeannie Longo doping investigation is far from complete. But clearly steroid use and doping is a problem that is not isolated to Spain.
Telegraph Staff. (February 8, 2012). Rafael Nadal sketch on Canal+ prompts Spanish Tennis Federation to sue broadcaster over doping allegations. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/rafaelnadal/9068986/Rafael-Nadal-sketch-on-Canal-prompts-Spanish-Tennis-Federation-to-sue-broadcaster-over-doping-allegations.html