The confrontation between FC Barcelona and their Real Madrid rivals seems to have ratcheted up a notch with allegations of doping at the Catalan club, which some think may have their source in the camp of the other team (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The claim that players at Barça have been taking illegal drugs was aired over the weekend on the Spanish episcopalian radio station COPE, renowned for its controversial views on many subjects and notable right-wing leanings. Following previous accusations of favouritism by referees in matches played by FC Barcelona, a theory given weight by the trainer of Real Madrid, José Mourinho, the COPE said that Madrid was considering asking the Spanish Football Federation to carry out more severe antidoping tests on Barça players. The journalist on the COPE, Juan Antonio Alcalá, also mentioned doctors of "doubtful reputation" supposedly working with the FC Barcelona team. Other theories put forward by Mourinho to explain the success of Barça this season include television channels programming matches so that Madrid have fewer rest days, defenders who attack Cristiano Ronaldo more than Leo Messi and other teams in the League who don't try so hard when playing against Barça. In response, FC Barcelona have issued an official note demanding immediate correction of the doping allegations and saying that it would take all necessary legal action to defend the honour of its coaching staff, players and medical team.
Controversy has arisen in the world of castellers (human castles) following the announcement of one group that it is studying the possibility of printing adverts on the shirts they wear when performing (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The Castellers de Vilafranca, from the Penedès region of Catalunya, have notified the Coordinator of Casteller Groups of Catalunya of their latest meetings where the matter has been discussed. President of the Castellers de VIlafranca, Miquel Ferret, denied that any contact has yet been made with a company about advertising and noted that the web of the organisation already has advertising on it. However, the news from Vilafranca has been greeted with concern by other casteller groups and particularly the Coordinator organisation because of the impact it could have on the deal that the latter has with beer company Estrella Damm. Damm pays for the insurance for all 58 groups that are part of the Coordinator organisation. In exchange, Damm erects temporary placards in the squares where castellers perform, but isn't authorised to include its name or logo on any of the outfits that the castellers wear—they all wear a particular coloured shirt to show which group they belong to, with white trousers—and the member groups have all committed to not include any advertising on their clothing. It is possible that the Castellers Coordinator will now explicitly ban the printing of ads on the castellers' clothes.
TMB, the organisation responsible for public transport in Barcelona and its surrounds, will launch a new bus system later this year whose vehicles only run along horizontal and vertical routes (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The so-called RET-Bus is due to be introduced in the second half of the year, eventually offering 12 new bus lines and with a service that has a greater frequency and speed than that provided by the existing bus network; the RET-Buses will also be given priority in bus lanes and have a greater passenger capacity. The project was presented yesterday by the president of TMB, Assumpta Escarp, along with other representatives of the company and members of the Barcelona city council. It is now just awaiting the final budget authorisation from the Autoridad del Transporte Metropolitano to get the final go-ahead. Four lines will start running in 2011, with the rest being inaugurated in 2012 and 2013. Other features of the RET-bus include a special system to give them priority at traffic lights, bus stops further apart than the standard buses and specific bus lanes.