Astana Qazaqstan has suspended Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez after reports emerged saying he was being investigated for alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring in Spain.
In a statement published on Twitter this morning, the Kazakh outfit said: “The news that was spread in the media yesterday evening caught us by surprise, and at the moment we do not have any details.
“In this regard, the team decided to suspend Miguel Angel Lopez from any activity within the team until all the circumstances of the case are clarified.”
The Spanish website Ciclo 21 reported yesterday that Lopez had returned to Spain from Colombia and was met at Madrid’s Barajos airport by officers from the Guardia Civil who are formally investigating his links with doctor and physiologist Marcos Maynar, who is the central figure in an investigation codenamed Operation Ilex.
Lopez, who has not raced since injuring his hip in May at the Giro d’Italia, had initially been summoned as a witness in connection with the distribution of medicines that are not authorised in Spain.
However, now that he has himself been formally placed under investigation, he could potentially face criminal charges.
Maynar, who is a professor at the University of Extremadura, where the Guardia Civil have previously searched the Physiology Laboratory of the Faculty of Sports Sciences where he works, has previously been linked to doping cases in a range of sports including cycling, where he has previously worked with the Fassa Bortolo and Comunidad Valenciana teams.
After appearing in court in Caceres in May, Maynar insisted he was innocent, saying: “I have never been convicted. It is always said that they accuse me, but it is never said that I have been acquitted.”
Lopez had been due to resume racing in preparation for the Vuelta, which starts in the Dutch city of Utrecht on 19 August but his suspension by his team due to the ongoing investigation casts serious doubt on whether he will take part in the race.
Lopez, a top 10 finisher in all three Grand Tours and whose victories include stages at the Vuelta and Tour de France and the overall title at the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Suisse, rejoined Astana, where he previously rode from 2015-20, at the start of this season.
He had left the team at the end of 2020 to join Movistar but walked out on the Spanish team after abandoning Stage 19 of last year’s Vuelta.
He later said later that the relationship between him and the team had reached breaking point due to an accumulation of issues such as his being prevented from representing Colombia at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.