Polls in France regular say Yannick Noah is “the most popular Frenchman”. An odd choice perhaps given the semi-retired tennis player is more famous in France for patronising rip-offs of West African music and tax evasion but he comes across as the cheerful sort, an eternal teenager enjoying life doing some good with charity work.
Go to Spain and the polling is all about the general election today. But if anyone tried asking I suspect Noah would win “most unpopular Frenchman” in Spain by some margin. He’s just managed to upset an entire nation with an article in French daily Le Monde:
When I dragged my racket around the courts, we weren’t humiliated, far from it, against our Spanish friends. The same on the football pitch, the basketball hall or the roads of the Tour de France. Today, they run faster than us, they are stronger than us and we’re only left with the crumbs. Next to them, it’s simple, we look like gnomes. What’s happened for us to miss out?
One question bothers me: how can a nation dominate a sport overnight? Have they discovered avant-garde training techniques and facilities?… …Between you and me, it’s hard to believe this hypothesis. Because today sport is a bit like Astérix in the Olympics: if you don’t have a magic potion it is difficult to win.
Magic potion? He means doping of course and sets this out in the rest of the article. Yet only this week Le Monde was in court to win a much-reduced fine but under the obligation to print an apology after linking Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona to doping. I find it too co-incidental that in the week the paper is on the defensive about Spanish doping, it gets Noah to pen an incendiary article.
There are real problems with doping in Spain but to confuse this with an entire nation is stupid and gets 45 million Spaniards on the defensive. Each country has its problems, the subject is serious but sadly Noah seems out of his depth. But he’s created a media storm in France and Spain, at least in the sporting pages.
The Tour of Rwanda is on. A nation still known for brutal tribal war, the cycling race is going some way to help a new identity. Cycling, and sport in general, is often used to showcase countries. See Kazakhstan with the Astana team, although I don’t think they promote the home country as well as they could. And now the remnants of the Geox team are waiting for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to say yes or no to sponsoring the squad; like a Roman emperor his decision will see of the squad lives or dies. Rwanda’s Tour is a great way to show the country is open. If a bike race can access the country, anyone else can.
Team Type 1
The US squad is taking part in the Rwandan race and has already won the prologue. The team wants to go places in many senses. As L’Equipe reports the squad is handing out information on diabetes. It’s great stuff and noble. And the team is sponsored by Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical giant.
The sponsor is bolstering the squad and they hope for a sport in the Tour de France. Probably not in 2012 but there is a concerted attempt behind the scenes to woo the French media and court ASO, plus they’re hiring more French riders. But the squad itself has been dogged by tales of amateur management and unpaid wages. Hopefully it can carry a positive message and professionalise its management
Ca passe ou ça CAS
It’s all or nothing for Alberto Contador this week as his case will be finally heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Or rather the UCI and WADA are appealing the verdict and procedure deployed by the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation. Nobody knows what to expect and the verdict is not due for some weeks.
If this hearing is an appeal any verdict by the CAS can go further appeal in the Swiss courts, adding more delay. You half expect this to drag on but any appeal is restricted, available if the CAS has acted illegally or failed in basic duties, for example to give a fair hearing. Swiss law cannot be used to appeal a verdict that one side is not happy with. In short next week will determine a lot in the sport and the WADA code.
Whereabouts system vs human rights law
You might think rasmussen is Danish for missing after the tales of Alex and Michael. The riders are unrelated, Rasmussen is just a common surname, in fact until a couple of months ago Denmark had been governed different prime ministers called Rasmussen ever since the early 1990s.
But the Whereabouts system of athletes reporting their daily location for out-of-competition testing is under threat. A group of Belgian athletes have hired a lawyer to contest the principle, saying it contravenes European human rights law, particularly on privacy (Article 8). Led by Brussels lawyer Kristof de Saedeleer, the case has been bouncing around the Belgian legal system for years but a verdict is expected soon.
The case hasn’t been reported that much but if Contador’s case is giving WADA worries over principles like strict liability, this case could see European human rights law trump WADA as well. Maybe I’ve got it wrong but if there is a legal argument to debate whether reporting your Whereabouts clashes with Article 8, it seems athletes complaining about their human rights is pushing it, especially since torpedoing the Whereabouts system is a doper’s dream. Surely so long as the data is kept strictly confidential then nobody is losing out? Or am I missing something?
Perhaps it will not come to this, indeed bureaucrats in the European Commission have been trying to find paths to ensure the Whereabouts system can be married with the human rights legislation.
The Basques are a proud people and you’ll find strength competitions in this region of Spain. Known as herri kirolak, exercises include carrying stones and woodcutting. It’s not something the likes of Igor Anton excel at, only someone’s taking an axe to the Euskalktel-Euskadi squad for they will have just 23 riders for 2012 including three neo-pros. This is the UCI minimum.
The team is being chipped away, caught by the rising costs of running a cycling team and a funding model based on local companies and regional support. 2012 might be the last year we see the orange in action. Maybe they don’t win that often but imagine what stage races from Paris-Nice to the Vuelta would be without them.