According to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), Colombian cyclist Miguel Ángel López has been provisionally prohibited from racing due to a probable anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). The suspension comes after the International Testing Agency (ITA) conducted an inquiry as part of Operacion Ilex, a doping investigation involving Spanish sports doctor Marcos Maynar.
Connection to Controversial Doctor Leads to Suspension
The UCI’s action arises from evidence obtained by the ITA in collaboration with the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Spanish Anti-Doping Organisation (CELAD) during Operacion Ilex. Maynar, a professor at the University of Extremadura who has already been tied to multiple doping cases, was the subject of the investigation. The evidence suggested that López used and had a prohibited substance in the weeks leading up to the Giro d’Italia 2022.
López, who withdrew unexpectedly from the Giro d’Italia due to a leg injury, was connected to Maynar, leading to his suspension by Astana in July 2022. López maintained his innocence throughout and was reinstated by Astana before his contract was cancelled in December owing to a “probable connection” with Maynar. After that, he joined Team Medellin-EPM and won the Vuelta a San Juan in January, stating his biological passport was clear.
A History of Doping Allegations and Investigations
The operative at the centre of Operacion Ilex, Dr. Maynar, has faced multiple allegations over the years. His practices have been scrutinised, and he has been charged with a series of crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and endangering public health. He was previously suspended for 10 years by the Portuguese Cycling Federation for supplying banned substances.
Despite the charges, Maynar has always maintained the legality of his actions and claims his consultations are solely nutritional advice. One such controversial recommendation was the use of Actovegin, a substance derived from calves’ blood which, though not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, could violate the UCI’s no-needle policy.
Maynar supported López in January, insisting on the cyclist’s innocence and declaring that he would stake his name on López never using illegal substances.
López Fights Back
Asserting his innocence, López has filed a complaint with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against Astana for wrongful dismissal. Despite the suspension, he maintains on not being involved in any criminal activity involving the unauthorised distribution of drugs or products described in press reports, suggesting that his relationship with Maynar was solely for nutritional guidance.
The UCI has now provisionally suspended López until a final decision is reached. López, now riding for the Colombian outfit Team Medellin-EPM, remains a subject of the ongoing investigation, casting a long shadow over his professional cycling career. As the suspension looms, the cycling community and López await the final outcome of these proceedings.