Tennis great Rafael Nadal has attacked a televised French satirical puppet show that implied he and other Spanish sports stars are drug cheats, saying it had crossed the line.
The sketches on Canal Plus France's show "Les Guignols," or "The Puppets" whipped up a storm of outrage in Spain, leading the foreign minister to order formal protests to French media.
One sketch featured a puppet likeness of world number two Nadal replenishing the tank of his car from his own bladder, a fill-up which powers up the car and leads to him being pulled over by police.
In another, a satirical advert asks people to donate blood to cycling champion Alberto Contador, who has been slapped with a two-year doping ban, and thus share in the glory of his cycling victories.
In Bad Taste: Rafael Nadal Pic/Getty Images
"At the end of the day it is humour," Nadal told Spanish media Thursday, explaining that he had not seen the video himself.
"One day is ok but when, from what I understand, it is done repeatedly then that is not so good because it crosses the line a bit. And it is always with the same focus," he said.
The French puppet show was a "repeat offender", said the 25-year-old tennis star.
"The institutions in general have to defend us because I don't think it is a campaign against me or a campaign against anyone. It is a campaign against Spain in general, and against Spanish sports," he said.
"I don't think it is only Canal Plus that does it. I think there are other media pushing it along and I think that is something punishable because in Spain sportspeople who are not clean are punished, they don't compete."
Nadal said Canal Plus alone was not to blame.
"It is a globalized campaign from the neighbouring country," he said.
"With a lot less resources than them we have achieved much more in the last years so we are doing something better -- it is not a question of pills or syringes I can assure you."
Spain had a system of sports drugs testing that ensured cheats were excluded from competition, Nadal said, adding that he himself had been tested three times already this year.
In a sign of the broad indignation, the front page of the top-selling sports daily Marca ran a drawing of Spain's sporting heroes including the World Cup winning football players with the headline: "They Are Not Puppets"
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said he had instructed the Spanish ambassador to France to send a written protest to French media including to Canal Plus.
Spain's tennis federation said the previous day it would sue Canal Plus over the comedy sketches.