Miguel Ángel López banned for four years due to doping

Colombian cyclist Miguel Ángel López has been handed a four-year doping ban. The sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), announced that the 30-year-old was found guilty of violating anti-doping rules for “use and possession of a prohibited substance” before the 2022 Giro d’Italia. López used a banned hormone called Menotropin, which can stimulate testosterone production in men.

The UCI’s decision follows a lengthy investigation initiated by evidence obtained from Spanish authorities during Operation Ilex. This operation, led by the Spanish Guardia Civil and the national anti-doping organisation CELAD, focused on a doping ring involving Dr. Marcos Maynar. The Independent Testing Agency (ITA), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, played a crucial role in handling the evidence.

López’s suspension began on 25 July 2023 and will run until 24 July 2027. His last professional races were with the Medellin-EPM squad until his provisional suspension midway through 2023. Despite his consistent denial of the charges, López has faced severe repercussions, including his sacking from the Astana team in December 2022 due to his alleged links with Dr. Maynar.

Dr. Maynar was arrested on 11 May, one day after López’s withdrawal from the Giro d’Italia due to a leg injury. He was charged with crimes against public health, drug trafficking, and money laundering. However, Dr. Maynar has denied any wrongdoing, including supplying banned substances to López.

López, known for his fiery character, had previously parted ways with Movistar after a dispute during the 2021 Vuelta a España. His climbing skills brought him considerable success, with notable victories such as the Tour de L’Avenir in 2014, the toughest stage of the 2020 Tour de France, and wins at the Tour de Suisse and Volta a Catalunya.

Despite the ongoing legal battles and the imposed ban, López continues to assert his innocence. He has the option to appeal the UCI’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Additionally, López has already filed a case against Astana for wrongful dismissal, with unconfirmed reports suggesting he might have won and the team may have to pay his back salary.

The UCI statement confirmed that the disciplinary proceedings against López started due to evidence gathered by the Spanish police and anti-doping agencies. Operation Ilex is still ongoing in the Spanish courts, focusing on the activities of Dr. Maynar and the doping ring that supplied both banned and legal substances to multiple athletes.

López’s ban will expire in July 2027, by which time he will be 33 years old. His suspension marks a significant chapter in his career, with his future in professional cycling now uncertain.