A police complaint registered by Continental squad Caja Rural-Seguros RGA has confirmed the anonymous distribution of portions of the evidence from the Operacion Ilex anti-doping investigation in Spain.
In the press statement that confirms the filing of the complaint, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA point out that no-one in their team, either riders or staff, have been implicated in any way in the ongoing investigation of which the documents form part.
The team also describes the documents, which were sent anonymously by post and email to a huge number of teams, media, race officials and the UCI during the countdown to the 2023 Vuelta, as “incomplete, skewed and taken out of context.”
“The aim [of the diffusion] was to damage the reputation of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA,” the press release said. “With this in mind, the team opted to report this to the police to see if it could constitute a crime.”
The documents are believed to be fragments of WhatsApp messages that form evidence from the ongoing police anti-doping investigation called Operación Ilex, centred in Extremadura in western Spain.
The leaked documents did not become general public knowledge until earlier this week. However, the linking of the team with Operacion Ilex in a Spanish media outlet was followed shortly by the press release confirming Caja Rural’s decision to report the anonymous leaking of the documents.
According to El Páis, one theory being investigated by police is that the diffusion of the documents may be connected to Caja Rural-Seguros RGA’s selection for a hotly disputed wildcard berth in the 2023 Vuelta a España.
Reputed specialist website Ciclo21, which was the first media outlet to reveal the existence of Operation Ilex, has subsequently claimed that police have now identified the individual responsible for the distribution of the documents. The letters containing the documents were all apparently posted in Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country in northern Spain.
Operación Ilex is a long-standing anti-doping probe centred on the trafficking of various products between 2020 and 2022, and which has University of Extremadura professor Dr. Marcos Maynar as one of its key suspects.
In 2019, Maynar completed a ten-year suspension by the Portuguese Cycling Federation for “the supplying of illegal performance-enhancing products” to the now-defunct Portuguese LA-MSS squad, for which he formerly worked. Doctor Maynar has repeatedly said he is innocent of all charges.
Parts of the leaked Ilex documents apparently contain conversations between Maynar and riders about physical performance, medical substances and where to obtain them. Many names of those speaking are blanked out, rendering the vast majority of the dialogues impossible to link directly.
Operation Ilex itself continues to wend its way through the Spanish legal system at the usual painfully slow pace for the country’s court system. Eight individuals are under direct investigation, and the 23 pages worth of selectively chosen portions of the larger file of evidence sent to the teams, media and cycling authorities form part of a court case totalling over 1,500 pages.
Clients of the ring were reported by the Guardia Civil to have paid up to €3,000 a year in exchange for doping products and specific training plans provided by the ring.
Swimmers, one of them underage, as well as cyclists and football players from across Spain and further afield, are all reported to have been involved.
Last year the fiery top Colombian climber Miguel Ángel López was twice suspended and then finally let go by his former team, Astana Qazaqstan, as a result of his alleged connections with Maynar. López, who has since been racing with a Colombian team before being suspended for an anti-doping violation, has repeatedly claimed he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
On October 18th, both Vicente Belda, the former sports director with Kelmer, and his son Vicente, the former Astana soigneur, reportedly made statements in court as part of the Ilex investigation. The judge now has to decide whether the case goes to trial or is archived.