Spanish police crack down on doping ring, former Kelme coach questioned

Miguel Ángel López denies any involvement in statement

Anti doping
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Spanish authorities said that two people have been arrested and six more were investigated after they had broken up a ring to distribute doping products banned in Spain.

Former Kelme directeur sportif Vicente Belda and his son Vicente, who works for the
Astana Qazaqstan team, were reportedly questioned after Spain’s Guardia Civil police force dismantled the trafficking ring that supplied drugs to athletes and offered other sporting services including university-run stress tests and medical analysis.

Operacion Ilex, the police investigation, began in January 2021 when Spanish police started to look into a suspected ring based in Caceres in western Spain.

Spanish news agency EFE reported that the investigation centers around a university professor and doctor in the Spanish city of Cáceres identified as Marcos Maynar, who was arrested in May for illegal drug trafficking.

Miguel Ángel López, who currently races for Astana Qazaqstan, released a statement on Thursday stating that he is not linked to the investigation.

The Colombian, who was briefly detained by Spanish authorities upon his return to Europe this summer, said on Thursday that reports suggesting he is linked to any sort of illicit activity are “completely false.”

"News has been published in different media where it is stated that I am being investigated in a supposed doping network," he wrote on social media.

"I currently don't have any active investigation or trials underway. My lawyers are ready to initiate any necessary legal action."

EFE reported that chemicals were mixed with nutritional products to make prohibited drugs, including one called Menotropin, used in the treatment of fertility disturbances, as well as Actovegin, DCA, and Teofilina.

Police said athletes were charged up to €3000 for the services among “high-level athletes".

Authorities also described how communication and distribution were separated between the source and the user to try to throw off law enforcement agencies.

Belda senior was a sports director at Kelme before he was linked to the anti-doping investigation Operación Puerto in 2006. He was cleared of any charges eight years later. His son, currently works as a soigneur for the Astana Qazaqstan team, but is no evidence or indication the team is involved.

Kelme were a Spanish top-level team who had riders including Alejandro Valverde and Roberto Heras on their books; they won the Vuelta a España in 2000 and 2002. However, the team closed down due to doping controversies. A lot of these stemmed from Operación Puerto, the Spanish investigation which uncovered blood doping linked to Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in multiple sports, but particularly cycling.

The Guardia Civil's press release on Thursday said that the ring captured "clients", one of whom is underage, through “various people closely connected to the world of professional sport, offering them the services of a well-known sports doctor.”

“These services included the preparation of training plans and nutrition programs as well as the consumption of medication and banned substances in sport," the statement reads.

“During the investigation, it has been corroborated how these sportspeople, once they had been in contact with the doctor and his assistant, a Doctor of Physiology, were profiled medically through stress tests and other types of analysis."

"These tests were carried out in the Faculty of Sports Science in [the University of] Extremadura, where one of the key names under investigation was teaching, along with the fabrication, reception and storing of certain medicaments.”

The investigation is continuing, EFE reported, with alleged activities in Portugal and Spain being looked into.

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