On December 12, Astana Qazaqstan Team announced its decision to terminate the contract with Miguel Angel Lopez. According to executives of Kazakhstan’s cycling team, the Columbian cyclist has been involved in a drug scandal with Marcos Maynar, a Spanish doctor who provided sportsmen with prohibited substances and manipulated their test results.
«Astana Qazaqstan Team discovered new evidence showing Miguel Angel Lopez’s probable connection with Dr. Marcos Maynar. Accordingly, the team had no other solution than to end the contract between the team and rider, based on breaches of said contract and internal team rules, with immediate effect. To preserve the rights of the team and of the rider, no further comments will be made,» the team stated via its official website.
However, Miguel Angel «Superman» Lopez has denied any connections with the infamous Dr. Maynar. In his social media, Lopez said that he’s never been connected to the investigation into Maynar’s case and sees no reason for the Astana Team to terminate his contract.
Lopez also noted that the contract with the team was just extended in November and he has no clue what happened from that time. Now the cyclist is going to sue Astana Qazaqstan Team for unjustified termination of his contract that was re-signed just a month ago. Moreover, the cycling team might become a target for the investigation as well, because new details revealed that Dr. Maynar was an old acquaintance of Vicente Garcia, a massage therapist of the Astana Qazaqstan Team and could supply him with doping for sportsmen.
In a statement on social media, Lopez wrote, «It has been reported to the media today the decision of Astana Qazaqstan Team to terminate the contract between the rider Miguel Angel Lopez and the team. This contract had been extended in November 2022, for the 2023 season.
“The rider hereby informs that he considers such a decision with no cause and that there are no new facts which could justify such a decision, not known or reported before November 2022 by Astana Team. The rider rejects any allegations that could damage his name and honor as a professional rider, and reminds that he has never tested positive for any drugs or doping, nor has he been investigated by any authority.
“Mr. Miguel Angel Lopez hereby informs that he will defend his rights before the corresponding courts, in a case which he understands as a clear case of abusive termination without just cause.»
In July, Spanish media reported the detention of Lopez at the Madrid International Airport by the local police. At the time, law enforcement officials said that Lopez was mentioned in the case of Marcos Maynar.
Spanish police have suspected that Marcos Maynar acted as a drug dealer for cyclists and manipulated their medical tests. The police said that some cyclists paid up to €3,000 per season, as they want him to assist them in creating training programs based on doping supplements. In May 2022, Maynar, who was then a professor at the University of Extremadura, was arrested by the police, which seized loads of drugs from his home. The so-called Ilex investigation also targets six other individuals.
In 2004 Maynar was targeted by law enforcement agencies for the first time. They investigated a case with online sales of drugs and found doping in Maynar’s home. However, the police bought his version that he possessed these substances for scientific purposes.
In 2008, the Portuguese Cycling Federation disqualified Maynar for 10 years because of the death of Bruno Neves, a 27-year-old Portuguese professional cyclist who died from a heart attack during a race. The local police searched the houses of all the LA-MMS team’s riders, including the team manager and seized drugs and medical equipment for blood transfusion. Maynar, who at the time was the team’s doctor, denied any wrongdoing and came out of the situation unscathed.
Miguel Angel Lopez rode for the Astana team from 2015 to 2020. In 2018, he was ranked third at Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. Last season he performed for the Spanish team Movistar, but later returned to Astana.
This is not the first doping scandal the Astana Qazaqstan Team found itself amidst. In February 2020, Danish and Norwegian media reported that Jakob Fuglsang and Alexey Lutsenko from Astana Qazaqstan Team were old clients of Michele Ferrari, an Italian physician, who was issued a lifetime ban from professional sport. Because of the scandal, Astana was banned from several professional races.
Michele Ferrari is well known for his role in supplying bicycle racers with performance-enhancing drugs. His most famous client was Lance Armstrong, who performed for Astana in 2009.