Yannick Noah doubts Spanish success

PARIS -- Former tennis great Yannick Noah accused Spanish athletes of widespread doping in an interview published Saturday, adding the only way to level the playing field would be to allow everyone to use banned drugs.

The 1983 French Open champion told Le Monde newspaper that French athletes no longer had a chance against their Spanish opponents and said his homeland was wrong to impose such stringent testing on its athletes.

"How can a country (Spain) dominate sport from one day to the next?" he asked. "Had they discovered avant-garde training techniques and methods that no one else imagined?"

He said Spanish athletes were consistently beefier than French ones and said the only conclusion was that they must be doping. He offered no other proof.

He said the buzz in sports circles was that the only way to win was to stay one step ahead of the capabilities of the anti-doping tests.

"If you don't have the magic potion, it's difficult to win," he said.

But Noah didn't advocate a crackdown on Spanish athletes.

Instead, he said France should be more lenient.

"We're not being treated in the same way as the majority of our adversaries from other countries," he said. "The best attitude to adopt is to accept doping. And then everyone will have the magic potion."

French Minister for Sports David Douillet condemned Noah's accusations as irresponsible, and said he hoped to introduce a criminal penalty for doping.

"What are we saying in reality when we want to institutionalize doping? We imagine that our children will die at 40 or that 12-year-old kids will take pills in the locker room, that's what that means," Douillet said on France 2 television.