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‘Operación Astur’ Doping Scandal Unfolds in Spain

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A report in the Spanish newspaper, El Español, has implicated former pro, Alexis Rodriguez, as being at the center of a doping operation which supplied illegal performance-enhancing drugs for amateur and aspiring pro cyclists.  

Rodriguez was first caught up in a series of arrests last year, when police discovered considerable amounts anabolic steroids, growth hormone and EPO, as well as bags and canulas for blood transfusions, and a machine to measure hematocrit levels, during a raid of his home. 

Dubbed Operation Astur, the investigation alleges that Rodriguez supplied the illegal substances to clients under the guise of a coaching service, and in many instances, even administered the drugs himself.  

However, according to the report, Rodriguez is just one of a few players who’s involved in Operation Astur.

“Rodríguez is only the first thread that investigators pulled at, unraveling a network in which a group of ex-cyclists (two of them professionals) and ex-athletes dedicated themselves to the buying, selling, and administering of doping products to tens of semi-professional sportspeople in the provinces of Salamanca, Lugo and Alicante,” read El Español’s report.

According to the investigation, the supplier through which Rodríguez obtained his products was ex-pro and former teammate at Supermercados Froiz-Cabreiroá team, Rafael Rodríguez Zegarra, who’s know for winning the 2007 Vuelta a Alicante in 2007, and later rode for the Pro Continental-level Contentpolis-Murcia team.

After his arrest in March last year, Rodríguez Segarra admitted to mostly selling EPO to amateur cyclists, but in some cases also supplied growth hormone the anabolic steroid oxandrolone. The police investigation suggests he administered some of these substances directly to clients.

Operación Astur also identifies, Ismael Ayas, a prominent cyclist on the amateur circuit, as a central player in the operation, using a small family workshop registered as ‘Ayas Brothers’ as the hub for the distribution of said illegal substances.

“As well as EPO, anti-doping agents found empty capsules, stickers with oxadrolone printed on, and white containers, leading the authorities to believe the workshop was not only a delivery point but where Ayas himself prepared the dosages for sale,” reads the report.

“Those same capsules found in the workshop, with those same stickers, were received by Alexis Rodríguez in Salamanca, with the name of Rodríguez Segarra as sender.”

Doping scandals are nothing new for Rodriguez, who was first caught up in one, when police raided his then Kelme team during the 2001 Giro d’Italia.  

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