It’s been a tough week for Spanish sports. Cyclist Alberto Contador, the winner of multiple Tour de France races, was suspended from the sport for two years. The Court of Arbitration for Sports found him guilty of doping, or using performance enhancing drugs. The decision has caused an outcry in Spain. But now that furor has been overshadowed by, well, some French TV puppets. The Guignols have set off a diplomatic spat between Spain and France.
France’s Guignols are like a cross between Saturday Night Live and the Muppets: all satire and latex.
In a recent video parody of Spanish athletes, disgraced cyclist Alberto Contador sings that he’s got bull’s blood in his veins. Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal croons about his stash of clean blood hidden in his fridge.
This is daily fare on French TV, but here on the south side of the Pyrenees its touched a nerve. Nadal has been among the most outspoken. Maybe because of this second Guignols video which shows him urinating in the gas tank of his own car, then speeding off at 200 miles an hour.
“This isn’t an attack against me,” Nadal told reporters during training this week, “but an attack against Spanish sports and the Spanish people.”
As such, Spain’s foreign minister has duly chimed in. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said official complaints had been sent to French media outlets, and especially to Canal Plus, which hosts the Guignols.
But why the doping parody to begin with? The cyclist Contador was recently busted. But generally speaking Spanish athletes don’t get caught more than others. The crux of the matter seems to be Spain’s athletic success. It makes some French suspicious. In recent years Spain has come to dominate soccer, basketball, tennis and cycling. Impossible, goes the innuendo, without a little synthetic pick-me-up. For the Spanish, the French are just jealous.
One recent news report on Spanish public television pointed out how France hasn’t won a Tour de France since the 1980s, or even the French Open for that matter. Then the reporter rattles off a long list of Spanish victories.
Missing in this uproar is just how funny the Guignols’ rubber puppets are. Not to mention that they’re rubber puppets. Instead, Spaniards today are gloating over a damning piece of news next door.
A French prosecutor announced he was opening an investigation into Patrice Ciprelli, the husband and coach of legendary French cyclist Jeannie Longo. Ciprelli has admitted to purchasing the banned performance-booster EPO.