Cycling-Astana suspend Lopez over alleged link to drug trafficking investigation

(Reuters) - Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez has been internally suspended by his Astana-Qazaqstan team following media reports that linked him to a drug trafficking case in Spain, the Kazakh outfit said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - Stage 17 - Grenoble to Meribel Col De La Loze - France - September 16, 2020. Astana Pro Team rider Miguel Angel Lopez of Colombia crosses the finish line REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Spanish website Ciclo21 reported that police in the country were scrutinising his connections to Dr Marcos Maynar, a professor at the University of Extremadura, who is under investigation for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering.

Lopez, initially a witness in the case, was intercepted at the Madrid-Barajas Airport by police in connection to the investigation into Maynar, the media report said, adding that the allegations concern the distribution of medicines that are not authorised in Spain.

Spain’s Guardia Civil police force told Reuters via email that Lopez was not being investigated and only had police baggage control at the Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Lopez’s agent did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"The news that was spread in the media yesterday evening caught us by surprise, and at the moment we do not have any details," the team said in a statement on Twitter here.

“In this regard, the team decided to suspend Miguel Angel Lopez from any activity within the team until all the circumstances of the case are clarified.”

One of Astana’s top riders, Lopez has not competed since withdrawing from stage four of the Giro d’Italia in May with a hip injury.

He has previously won stages on the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, and is a past winner of the Tour de Suisse and the Volta a Catalunya.

(This story refiles to Spain’s Guardia Civil police force corrects statement in fourth paragraph to say Lopez is not being investigated and had police baggage control at the Madrid-Barajas Airport, not previous statement that said he is being investigated in connection to Maynar)

Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Toby Davis