Mud sticks, whether hitting the intended target or smearing anybody within splash range. The veracity of this sore has been borne out again this last week in both Spain and neighbouring France.
Starting with Spain . . . the drama and eagerly attentive audience in Madrid was not only the one in the Estadio Bernabeu to witness Real’s 1-1 Spanish cup draw with Barcelona; there was also the little matter of events in Court 21.
This latter stage is the one on which doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and four associates are on trial accused of public health offences almost a decade ago. But the real reason Fuentes & Co found themselves in court was his role at the centre of cycling’s doping scandal.
Fuentes, once team doctor for Kelme, had more than 50 cyclist clients who relied on him – so it is alleged – to bend, twist and manipulate their blood samples with EPO.
In 2006 the Spanish police raided Fuentes’s home and offices. The evidence blew open cycling’s blood-doping conspiracy.
Simultaneously, it emerged that Fuentes had client athletes in athletics, boxing, football and tennis. Their identities have never been revealed.
Indeed, early in his trial Fuentes was told by the judge that he could maintain doctor/patient confidentiality and keep the names to himself because they were not relevant to the case. That guaranteed that the media guessing game will continue for some considerable time.
Unfortunately Spain’s attitude to doping in sport has long been equivocal, to say the least.
The last Prime Minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, was among powerful figures who defended Alberto Contador over his 2010 Tour de France dope disgrace. In the end he was banned and stripped of his hold on the now-grubby yellow jersey.
When Madrid pursued the 2016 Olympics, bid leaders had to dance around a reluctance to commit to the World Anti-Doping Code. Even now, with the city chasing the 2020 Games, bosses say anti-doping anomalies under the law must yet be resolved by legislators.
The longer Fuentes is allowed to stay silent, the longer will be the shadow of suspicion cast over all of Spanish sport, in every competition, on every stage, at every level.
France saw the other mud-throwing escapade. This time it was cast by the bi-weekly magazine France Football and the target was Qatar over the Gulf state’s success in having landed the 2022 World Cup finals.
The vote by FIFA’s executive committee in December 2010, was a surprise and, of course, the entire 2018/2022 process was hedged about with all manner of horrors which saw two of the world federation’s directors suspended after a votes-for-sale scandal.
France Football, in a 16-page narrative entitled Qatargate, pulled together all the truth and all the innuendo – starting with FIFA’s disastrous decision to run dual bidding plus all the twists and turns along the road to Zurich.
The magazine also questioned UEFA president Michel Platini’s presence at a dinner hosted by then President Nicolas Sarkozy for the Emir of Qatar some 10 days before the crucial vote.
Platini – who has never hidden the fact that he voted for Qatar – has developed something of a thick skin to media attention, but this mud-slinging was too much even for him; he has threatened to sue anyone questioning his integrity in choosing to cast his vote as he did.
Doping in Spanish sport and the Qatar World Cup vote . . . these are issues which will run and run. So expect more mud-slinging to go with it.
THIS WEEK’S ARTICLES:
PROZONE: THE FUTURE GAME – ANALYSING FOOTBALL’S DEVELOPMENTAL TRENDS
KEIR RADNEDGE: A NEW ROUND OF MUDSLINGING
ROGAN TAYLOR: THE LONG ROAD FROM LEPPINGS LANE
ROGAN TAYLOR: THE FA’S SECRET WEAPON – A BIG JAR OF TREACLE
Keir Radnedge is one of the foremost observers of international soccer. He has reported at every World Cup since 1966 and is a regular contributor to TV, radio, newspapers and magazines worldwide. He is editor of KeirRadnedge.com and is chairman of the Football Commission of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). Visit www.KeirRadnedge.com for further information. Follow him on Twitter for more sports industry updates.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.