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Astana’s Miguel Ángel López linked to drug trafficking investigation

Colombian climber met by police in Madrid airport in recent days.

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Astana-Qazaqstan’s Miguel Ángel López may be in hot water following reports that Spanish police are scrutinizing his connections to controversial doctor Marcos Maynar Mariño, a professor at the University of Extremadura, who is under investigation for alleged crimes of drug trafficking and money laundering.

According to Spanish website Ciclo21, López travelled from Colombia to the Adolfo Suárez airport in Madrid-Barajas and was intercepted there by agents of the Central Operational Unit (UCO), part of the Judicial Police Service of the Civil Guard.

The rider was reportedly previously implicated in the so-called ‘Maynar case,’ but police have apparently now changed his status from witness to the alleged crime of distribution of medicines that are not authorized in Spain to someone who is under investigation.

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Depending on the outcome of the case, Ciclo21 states that this could potentially leave him open to being found criminally liable.

‘Superman’ López is one of the top riders on the Astana team. He is a past winner of the Tour de Suisse and the Volta a Catalunya, has taken stage wins in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, and has finished third overall in both the Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia. He was sixth in the 2020 Tour de France.

López won a stage of this year’s Tour of the Alps and lined out in the Giro hoping for a strong performance. However he withdrew on stage 4, with Astana-Qazaqstan stating he had a problem with his left hip. He missed the Tour de France due to what his team said was the same injury.

Last year López was sitting third overall in the Vuelta a España heading into the penultimate stage but dramatically withdrew from the race after he missed an important split and was instructed by his-then Movistar team not to chase. Another Movistar rider, Enric Mas, was in the move and ended the race second overall behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).

López had a falling out with the team and did not compete for them again in 2021. He moved back to the Astana setup, a team he had competed with between 2015 and 2020.

Ciclo21 said that he is due to compete in the Prueba Villafranca-Clásica de Ordizia on Monday, his first race since leaving the Giro. He is expected to appear in court in Cáceres in the fall in connection with the Maynar case.

Maynar was arrested on May 11th, one day after López’s withdrawal from the Giro d’Italia, and has been ordered to report to court every two weeks. He has a controversial past, having been linked to doping cases involving banned substances such as anabolic steroids and EPO.

In 2004 the Spanish Guardia Civil was investigating the online sale of steroids discovered doping substances in his home. He escaped sanction by claiming the products were for research purposes.

Maynar was investigated in relation to the death of the former LA – MSS rider Bruno Neves, stage winner in the 2005 Volta a Portugal, who crashed and died while leading the Clássica de Amarante in May 2008.

It was initially thought that the 26-year-old had died due to the injuries sustained in the crash, but an autopsy showed that he had suffered a cardiac arrest prior to the fall. Lemonde.fr reported in 2008 that Portuguese police had searched the team premises in Povoa de Varzim, in the north of Portugal, as well as the home of the sports director, Manuel Zeferino, plus those of 10 riders.

It said that police subsequently announced that they had seized “doping substances, medicines, equipment intended for blood autotransfusion and medical equipment,” as well as growth hormones, EPO, and bags of blood. Maynar was the team doctor at the time but denied any knowledge of doping on the team.

He was not charged by police. In October 2009 the Portuguese Cycling Federation announced that he had been handed a 10-year ban for doping practices. He was later banned by WADA.

According to a report published on the website Deportes.today in May, Maynar stated on Twitter in 2021 that he had opened “an online consultation related to health, sports performance, and supplementation,” and said that he was “doctor for the COE [Spanish Olympic Committee] at the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics, for the Spanish Cycling and Rowing federations and for professional cycling teams Maia, Fassa Bortolo and Comunidad Valenciana.”