IN HIS CORNER: Spanish government and opposition leaders spoke up for the innocence of Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador in 2011, when he was handed a ban for doping. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
IN HIS CORNER: Spanish government and opposition leaders spoke up for the innocence of Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador in 2011, when he was handed a ban for doping. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

MADRID — It is obvious that Spain’s image has taken a major blow, but now the question is whether the controversial court ruling on the doping scandal known as Operation Puerto will have a direct effect on the Madrid 2020 Olympic bid.

Welsh former Olympic champion Nicole Cooke was particularly hard this weekend, as she asked members of the International Olympic Committee not to vote for Madrid when they choose the host of the 2020 Games in September.

"We now need our representatives to send the most clear message to the Spanish authorities," said the athlete, who won the gold in road cycling for Britain in Beijing 2008.

"Sir Craig Reedie, Sir Philip Craven, Adam Pengilly, make your views public and crystal clear. This is not an area for inaction or even for ‘behind-closed-doors’ persuasions. Please, let us not be quiet on this issue," she told the BBC.

Britain has four votes out of the 95 that are set to choose between Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Games.

The race is approaching the home stretch, and any detail can affect the choice in an election that many assume will be the closest in recent years.

The ruling on Operation Puerto, one of the largest doping networks discovered anywhere in the world, has generated negative reactions since it was issued early last week. The main defendant, Eufemiano Fuentes, was handed a one-year prison sentence and a four-year ban from the practice of sports medicine.

What prompted the greatest outrage in Spain and beyond, particularly among sports people, was the judge’s decision to destroy the more than 200 bags of blood that were seized from the doctor in 2006, many of whose owners have never been identified or penalised.

Spain’s authorities have said they will appeal against the ruling, but none of the country’s political leaders made convincing comments. For the sake of comparison, government and opposition leaders spoke up for the innocence of Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador in 2011, when he was handed a ban for doping.

Although this was one of the biggest trials against a doctor for doping-related offences, the seven years the case took to reach a ruling had a negative effect on Spain’s image, and the ruling itself dealt it a major blow.

This would not be the first time doping seriously affects a Madrid Olympic bid: in 2009, the director-general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howman, spoke of Spain’s antidoping laws as "not wise" and hitting hard at Madrid’s 2016 hopes.

This time around it is not the Spanish government’s fault, but doping is again a pebble in the shoe of Madrid’s Olympic dream.

Sapa-DPA