Barca and Valencia move swiftly to deny doping allegations
La Liga Loca will begin todayÃ¢ÂÂs ramblings with five words likely to have those legal eagles at FourFourTwo HQ spitting their afternoon coffee and crumpets rather spectacularly over their computer screens: Real Madrid. Barcelona. Valencia. Doping.
Rather than the usual bitch-fights and hair pulling sessions in regards to referees, the FA, UEFA or the Pope favouring Real Madrid over Barcelona (or vice versa), one Spanish radio station has decided to really push the boat out and flirt dangerously with the idea of drugs being behind the rise and fall of Valencia in the early part of the last decade and the current rise and rise and rise (and rise) of Barcelona.
On Sunday night, a journalist for Cadena COPE claimed that a senior SeÃÂ±or within Real Madrid had revealed that the club had gone to the Spanish FA to call for more stringent drug testing processes than currently exist, with the insinuation being that Barcelona may be more than just a club in their medical department too.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was a director at a high level,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed COPEÃ¢ÂÂs Juan Antonio AlcalÃÂ¡, who said the next day that he himself didnÃ¢ÂÂt believe the insinuations from the unnamed party who has apparently gone to ground but that Ã¢ÂÂif thereÃ¢ÂÂs someone at Madrid who believes it and tells me I think my obligation as a journalist is to repeat it.Ã¢ÂÂ
Understandably, pretty much everything has hit the fan in Spanish football since the story broke, with Barcelona and Valencia both releasing sternly-worded statements expressing their outrage at the story and threatening legal action.
A statement on Barcelona's website read: "In response to the grave insinuations broadcast on Sunday night on the Cadena Cope radio station, FC Barcelona wishes to publically express its total indignation at these unfounded references which link the Club to doping practices and to condemn such attitudes, which have nothing to do with fair play and gravely affect the image of sporting competition."
Valencia, meanwhile, expressed their "indignation at the information broadcast by COPE." Adding that "Valencia has asked for a rectification and is studying legal action. The club won its titles between 1999 and 2008 due to the great work of its players, coaches, leaders, employees and the support of its fans."
Even Gerard PiquÃÂ©, who was at a sponsors event on Monday, was dragged into the matter warning that anyone who puts the words Barcelona and doping together are Ã¢ÂÂplaying with fire.Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂWe only take vitamins that our nutritionist prescribes,Ã¢ÂÂ was the response from the BarÃÂ§a defender, before he went on to discuss more important business such as the greatness of Mango clothes and snogging Shakira.
SpainÃ¢ÂÂs Minister of Sport, Jaime Lissavetsky, has also poo-pooed the suggestion that doping is rife in football, claiming - somewhat laughably considering the scandals currently surrounding the countryÃ¢ÂÂs cyclists and athletes - that Spain is "at the forefront of this fight [against doping]. Our football is clean.Ã¢ÂÂ He also denied that there had been any contact from any club about drug procedures.
That maybe the case but LLL would counter that no-one really knows if football is clean or not after Marca published a rather damning study last week arguing that the gameÃ¢ÂÂs drug-testing procedures were woeful, claiming that only two games from la Primera and la Segunda are picked for testing each weekend, and only on a Sunday as there isnÃ¢ÂÂt the budget to cover Saturday matches. Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs a exercise in inefficiency and sloppiness,Ã¢ÂÂ slammed the paperÃ¢ÂÂs editorial.
The Barcelona press have gone quite ballistic in response to the affair which is a fairly predictable reaction and see the hand of JosÃÂ© Mourinho and Florentino PÃÂ©rez behind the insinuations. Ã¢ÂÂWhat a disgrace!Ã¢ÂÂ yells the front cover of Mundo Deportivo. Ã¢ÂÂEnough of the lies,Ã¢ÂÂ huffs Sport, with Josep MarÃÂa Casanovas writing that Ã¢ÂÂthis dirty war begun by Mourinho and supported by Florentino is intolerable."
It is no real surprise that the talk of doping has reached the realms of Spanish football, regardless of whether these current insinuations are based on genuine suspicion or purely on malicious intent - if they were ever made at all. Only threats and counter threats of legal action will resolve the current spat that has sprouted from Sunday.
Allegations of doping have already badly affected the reputation of Spanish cyclists and athletes, with investigations currently underway into both sports, so it is no wonder football has now being dragged into the mire.
The worrying problem for the notion of truth and justice in the Spanish game is that there is the feeling the topic will be dealt with in the same way as match-fixing has been in the countryÃ¢ÂÂs football - allegations and stories being widely published suggesting that it is taking place, but a refusal from people at all levels of the sport to doing anything about it.