Spain has launched a diplomatic protest over a satirical puppet show on French TV that implied tennis great Rafael Nadal is a drug cheat.
"I spoke last night and this morning with our ambassador in Paris," Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told a news conference in a growing crisis over the puppet show, which caused a media scandal in Spain.
"He has very concrete instructions to send a statement to all the French communication media and a special letter to the director of Canal Plus France in the same terms, signalling our displeasure in this matter."
Spain's tennis federation said the previous day it would sue Canal Plus over the comedy sketches, which implied that Nadal, cyclist Alberto Contador, and other Spanish athletes use performance-enhancing drugs.
One sketch featured a puppet likeness of world number two Nadal filling the gas tank of his car from his own bladder before speeding off at high speed.
"Spanish athletes - they don't win by chance," the sketch concludes.
In another, a satirical advert asks people to donate blood to Contador and thus share in the glory of his cycling victories.
"They have no relation whatsoever to reality," the Spanish foreign minister said.
"Frankly, the videos ... are in extraordinarily bad taste and a major ethical lapse, let us say that they make serious economies with the truth."
Mr Garcia-Margallo said Spain's sports council would send a letter to the French sports ministry underlining good all-round and sporting relations, but lamenting the incident.
The letter would also recognise the French government could do little in the matter, which related to a private company, the Spanish foreign minister said.
On Monday, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport banned Contador for two years after he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.
Contador says it was due to a contaminated steak eaten during the 2010 Tour de France. He said on Tuesday his lawyers were looking into a possible appeal.
The ban imposed on Contador prompted widespread indignation in Spain, with many in the public and media branding it unjust.
Contador's fans said they will don masks of their hero on Sunday and hold a symbolic bike ride in his home town of Pinto to support him.
The sanction is backdated to August 2010, meaning Contador can return to competition on August 6, 2012.
As well as ruling him out of this year's Tour de France and the Olympic Games in London, he will be stripped of several wins, including his 2010 yellow jersey, one of his three victories in the French race.
AFP/ABCTags: sport, cycling, television, tennis, france, spain First posted February 10, 2012 08:09:28