Noah says doping accusations were wake-up call

Former French Open champion Yannick Noah says his accusations of

doping being rife in Spanish sport were intended as a global

wake-up call to sports authorities he feels should be doing more to

catch drug cheats – yet he maintains his belief that Spain is

tainted.

In an interview with a French newspaper last week, Noah accused

Spanish athletes of widespread doping. He said the only way to

level the playing field for struggling French and other athletes

would be to allow everyone to use the ”magic potion,” or banned

drugs.

”If I chose this turn of phrase, it was to address the

authorities … in order to start a debate,” Noah said Friday on

the website of newspaper Le Monde that published his comments last

week.

Those accusations drew criticism from Spanish athletes such as

10-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, and from the French

Tennis Federation, which distanced itself from Noah.

”I am a bit frustrated that there are two weights and two

measures in terms of doping, whether it’s Spain or another

country,” Noah continued. ”Of course all Spanish athletes aren’t

doped … (But) are (the French) worse than the others? I don’t

think so.”

Nadal said Noah should be banned from commenting in the media,

while Pep Guardiola, the coach of Barcelona soccer club, told him

to produce proof or stay quiet.

”I went through the same thing 30 years ago, when I was 20. I

spoke about doping and drugs and everyone had a go at me,” Noah

said. ”I couldn’t respond to everyone. To Toni Nadal, Rafael’s

uncle, who’s told his nephew never to say hello to me again. But

what do I care if he says hello to me or not?”

Noah, whose son Joakim plays for the Chicago Bulls, refused to

back down from his view that Spain remains tainted by doping.

He cited cases involving cyclist Alberto Contador’s positive

doping test when he won the 2010 Tour de France, world steeplechase

champion Marta Dominguez, and the Operation Puerto blood-doping

investigation as examples.

”The cyclist who ate some meat that helped him pedal faster and

who was cleared by his federation, the case of (Dominguez) stopped

by the police and then cleared,” Noah said. ”My question is the

following: Is this not all orchestrated? In the Puerto case, I have

the feeling that the affair has been smothered, that names have

been hidden.”

Dominguez was among 14 people detained in December 2010 as part

of the ”Operation Galgo” doping investigation, but a Madrid court

cleared her of doping and of trafficking performance-enhancing

substances.

This led to an investigation into Spain’s Civil Guard for

irregularities in managing her case.

Seven people linked to Puerto will stand trial in Spain, facing

up to two years in prison. They include sports doctor Eufemiano

Fuentes, former Liberty Seguros team boss Manolo Saiz and five

others arrested in 2006 on suspicion of providing doping services

to cyclists.

Puerto implicated more than 50 cyclists but Spanish sports

bodies could not use evidence to ban athletes because of Spanish

law, which has since changed.

On Thurday, sport’s highest court completed a four-day hearing

into Contador’s 2010 Tour case. Hu must wait until early next year

to find out if he will be stripped of his title.

Contador’s defense is that eating contaminated steak caused his

positive tests for clenbuterol.

”I am against all forms of doping but I’m hypersensitive when

it comes to injustice. There are too many cheats winning these

days. In Spain and elsewhere,” Noah said. ”At which point is an

athlete considered to have doped? When he takes a product that

makes him run faster, makes him stronger, helps him recover more

quickly? Or when he tests positive? The answer to the question is

not the same, depending on the country.”

Noah blamed the media for not being aggressive enough on doping

issues.

”There are side effects which you never read about on the front

pages of the newspapers,” he said. ”We know there have been

problems in the past with Italian footballers who are now seriously

ill.”