MADRID: Tour de France champion Alberto Contador’s positive drugs test has heaped more shame on Spain as a country celebrating a sporting golden age is being forced to face up to a doping problem that is tarnishing its image.
The recent achievements of tennis world number one Rafa Nadal, Spain’s World Cup-winning national soccer team and Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, among others, have helped lift the nation to the pinnacle of world sport.
But Contador was one of four Spanish cyclists to be suspended in three days, prompting International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid to suggest the government should recognise and tackle a doping problem in cycling.
In an editorial on Sunday responding to McQuaid, Spain’s biggest-selling sports daily Marca said his comments were “a blow to the heart for a country that owes a large part of its recent joy to the success of its athletes”.
However, the 20 positive doping cases in Spanish cycling over the past year and a half proved that there was a lot more to do to “banish this curse”, Marca wrote.
“This does not mean that we can doubt the successes of our athletes.”
Spain’s Socialist government argues that a law on doping in sport it passed in late 2006 brought the nation into line with the most advanced countries in the fight against drug cheats.
However, columnist Julian Garcia Candau, writing in daily newspaper La Razon on Sunday, noted that for all the out-of-competition testing and vigilance against doping, Spanish sport was still unable to distance itself from wrongdoing.
“Alongside the great successes, our athletes are sailing in stormy waters,” he wrote. “Cycling is shaming us.”