MADRID — The president of Spain’s Olympic committee would like to see Rafael Nadal as the country’s flag bearer in Rio de Janeiro, in part to make a statement after recent doping accusations made against him.
It will be up to a group of federation presidents to pick the flag bearer, but Alejandro Blanco said Wednesday that Nadal deserves to be chosen for what he has done for Spanish sports.
The former top-ranked tennis player was supposed to be the flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics but got injured before the games and was replaced by NBA player Pau Gasol.
Blanco also said Spain has been getting a bad reputation related to doping and called for the government to adapt to new requirements by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which earlier this month declared the nation to be non-compliant with its regulations.
Speaking at a media event in Madrid, Blanco said having Nadal as Spain’s flag bearer would be important after the recent doping accusations made by former French Minister for Health and Sport Roselyne Bachelot, who claimed on French television that the Spaniard’s seven-month injury hiatus in 2012 was “probably due to a positive doping test.”
“Spanish sports owe him a lot,” Blanco said. “In Beijing, he was the athlete who was followed the most by the international media and by other athletes. Rafa Nadal took Spanish sports to another level.
“I think he should be the flag bearer, especially after how he has been treated. He deserves to feel that Spanish sports care about him.”
A 14-time Grand Slam champion and the gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics, Nadal has been one of the country’s biggest sports idols in recent years. He was defended by the country’s government and several other local athletes after the accusations made by Bachelot.
“Nadal is a reference,” Blanco said. “He was picked as the flag bearer for London, he should be picked again for Rio.”
Speaking about the new WADA requirements, Blanco said it was unacceptable for Spain to be unable to adapt its doping laws. He said that the government’s lack of action was hurting the image of the athletes abroad.
“Every country has adapted to the new code, there is no reason why we can’t do it as well,” Blanco said. “We can’t be a negative reference when in practice we have an extremely positive record.”
Spain’s anti-doping rules are also law, and a political stalemate has stopped the country from making the changes required by WADA.
Blanco also said Spanish athletes have the right to decide not to go to Rio if they fear for their health because of Zika, but didn’t expect the virus to affect the games in a major way.
“The athletes will know ahead of time what the situation will be,” he said.
He also expressed his full trust in the Brazilian government and the international community to avoid problems related to security and terrorism.