By Duncan Mackay

Madrid 2020_and_Spanish_Government_hold_meeting_with_WADA_2April 7 - Spain has pledged that it is fully behind the fight against drugs in an attempt to end doubts that the country is soft on the issue, a perception that undermined Madrid's bid to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

Leaders of the Madrid 2020 bid have now decided to tackle the problem head-on to try to ensure that it does become a festering sore during this campaign, where they are facing rivals Baku, Doha, Istanbul and Tokyo.

Alejandro Blanco, the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and of Madrid 2020, and Miguel Cardenal, Spain's Sports Minister, have held talks with with David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping, to express their support for the battle.

The commitment was has also been backed by Marisol Casado, the Spanish President of the International Triathlon Union and an increasingly influential member of the International Olympic Committee, who also attended the meeting.

After the meeting, Cardenal claimedthat the Spanish Government "has always been committed to the fight against doping".

But three years ago in the final few months of the campaign for 2016 Howman warned Spain that a new law on doping were less restrictive than WADA guidelines and that they needed to be changed if Spain wanted to host the Olympics.

For example, athletes would no longer have needed to be permanently available for testing, with tests banned between 11pm and 8am.

The Spanish move incorporated the complaints of sportsmen like world number tennis player Rafael Nadal, who had claimed the WADA system as "an intolerable persecution".

Since then there have been several high-profile incidents in Spain involving banned performance-enhancing drugs, including a row over Alberto Contador, who earlier this year was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title following a long battle in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after he had initially been cleared by Spanish authorities.

Alberto Contador_waving_Spanish_flag_at_2010_Tour_de_France
"We must only pay attention to the appearance of new elements that could lead to an improvement in this field; therefore our engagement is that of improving our institutions, rules and work methods," said Cardenal.

Blanco also claimed that the joint meeting represented Spain's "solid unity not only in the fight against doping, but also in the relations between the Council and the Olympic Committee".

He said: "This is the first time the WADA holds a meeting with the two highest representatives of both institutions at the same time.

"This has an important meaning for all of us.

"Every step taken to improve Spain's image abroad on what we are doing to fight doping is always positive.

"People must understand that Spain is putting a great deal of effort into fighting against doping."

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