Vuelta a San Juan 2023 winner Miguel Angel Lopez banned for four years. ANDRES LARROVERE/AFP via Getty Images

Miguel Ángel López, who finished third in the 2018 Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, has been banned from cycling for four years for use and possession of the prohibited substance Menotropin.

López was provisionally suspended last July over a potential anti-doping rule violation committed weeks before the 2022 Giro d’Italia. The initial ban came during an investigation into Dr Marcos Maynar by the International Testing Agency (ITA) - 'Operation Ilex' - which was based on evidence obtained from Spanish law enforcement (Guardia Civil) and the Spanish Anti-Doping Organisation (CELAD).

The 30-year-old Colombian was held at Madrid Barajas Airport in July 2022 and questioned over his links to Maynar as part of a drug trafficking and money laundering investigation. He was suspended by his Astana team as a result, but reinstated in time to finish fourth in the 2022 Vuelta. However, Astana sacked him in December 2022 citing new evidence of his connection with Maynar.

The climbing specialist then signed for Team Medellin-EPM and enjoyed a superb start to 2023, winning the Vuelta a San Juan, the Colombian national time trial title and the Vuelta al Tolima. López was also victorious in the Vuelta a Catamarca and the Vuelta a Colombia before receiving his provisional ban.

The UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal announced on Wednesday that López had been given a four-year suspension starting from 25 July 2023. He will be free to ride competitively again on 25 July 2027.

López, who acquired the nickname Superman in his youth when he fended off knife-wielding thieves trying to steal his bike, wrote on his Instagram that he "deeply disagreed" with the decision. He added that he would "immediately appeal to the UCI and defend my innocence as I have always done". He has one month to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

UCI's press release reads, "Menotropin is a Prohibited Substance under class S2.2 (Peptide Hormones and their releasing factors) of the Prohibited List which is maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and adopted by the UCI."

Earlier this month, Colombian media reported that CAS had ordered Astana to pay López for the remainder of his contract although no documentation from CAS has yet been made public.