A new slant on the hackneyed “drugs in sport” debate has emerged out of the US amid news that a football team in Colombia has been revealed as a front for one of South America’s most wanted cocaine drug lords.

USA Today online reports that the US Treasury Department has identified Colombian second-division team Cortulua as one of 17 companies or individuals allegedly operating on behalf of Carlos Alberto Renteria Mantilla (plain old “Carlos Mantilla” must be the “John Smith” of the Columbian white pages), one of the leaders of that country’s biggest drug cartel.

Newspaper subeditors the world over were obviously delighted with the news, given it’s now been more than a decade since the Maradona cocaine scandal provided such a high-profile opportunity to trot out the trusty “white line fever” gags.

It’s not the first time Colombia’s soccer teams have been linked to the cocaine trade, with notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar said to have been connected to Medellin’s Atletico Nacional team.

The move comes as a major blow (pun intended) to Cortulua officials, who are preparing a return to the top flight of Colombian football after just a year in the lower reaches of the second division.

In an act of defiance, the club placed a statement from the local mayor on its website, where he called upon fans to show their civic pride by venturing to the team’s stadium to celebrate its imminent return to the first division and to protest against what has been described as a smear campaign.

Not surprisingly, there has been no word from Mantilla, who we assume spends some nervous moments on the terraces at the club’s home games knowing there is a $US5 million reward for information leading to his capture.