MADRID – Spain's sports minister acknowledged Tuesday the country has a doping problem that needs fixing after its record in the fight against drugs came under scrutiny with Alberto Contador's ban from cycling.
Jose Ignacio Wert, minister for Education, Culture and Sport, said Spain needed to improve its record "to gain credibility" in the eyes of international bodies.
"We have a problem with doping and that's why we have every intention of making sure Spain's anti-doping law conforms with WADA's anti-doping code," Wert said at the Forum de la Nueva Sociedad.
Madrid submitted its 2020 Olympic bid application to the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He added that tougher measures on doping are necessary to provide "institutional aid" to Madrid's bid to host the 2020 Games, and a planned bid from Barcelona for the 2022 Winter Games.
Contador was banned this month over a failed drug test at the 2010 Tour de France and stripped of the title of that race. The Spanish cyclist, who also won the Tour in 2007 and '09, was handed a retroactive two-year ban that will sideline him from this year's French classic, the Giro d'Italia and the London Olympics.
Contador has formed part of Spain's golden generation that includes athletes such as Rafael Nadal, Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, NBA star Pau Gasol and the national soccer team, which is the world and European champion.
Nadal, Contador and others have been the butt of doping jokes by a satirical TV program in France, which has drawn much attention and ire from Spanish athletes and the general population.
"The best response is just to ignore them," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Tuesday as he honored Nadal, David Ferrer and Spain's Davis Cup winning team.
The Spanish cycling and tennis federations are suing France's Canal Plus TV for using their logos without approval in the skits.
The satirical skits by Les Guignols came on the heels of former French Open champion Yannick Noah's opinion piece in newspaper Le Monde in November accusing Spanish sport of being rife with doping. Before the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union took Contador's case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Spanish cycling federation had cleared Contador of doping after he blamed his positive result on contaminated meat.
"I'm more motivated than ever to clean up Spain's image," Nadal, a six-time French Open champion, said in a TV interview on Monday. "Spanish sport is characterized by sacrifice, humility and spirit of overcoming adversity that all athletes have.
"You can't accuse someone of something you have no proof of, even if it's humorous. France is obsessed with us."
Spain has been at the forefront of international ire in the fight against doping since the Operation Puerto investigation was launched in May 2006. That probe implicated at least 50 cyclists and a number of doctors and cycling team officials were arrested.
But Spanish authorities failed to ban any riders linked to the scandal, even though other countries used evidence gathered in the probe to suspend riders such as Ivan Basso, Alejandro Valverde and Jan Ullrich.