Statistically speaking, with 73 wins in a career dating back to the mid-1990s, Chris Horner now outranks the likes of Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer as the most successful US rider since Greg LeMond. That head scratching abnormality was even established before one counts Horner’s recent win in the Vuelta a España. It’s a staggering state of affairs and not one many would have predicted a year ago, let alone 20 years ago when the Okinawa-born Horner began racing.
The statistical anomaly is down to the fallout from USADA’s Reasoned Decision. The long investigation that brought down Lance Armstrong and his seven Tours saw a gutting of the US annals of history from the last quarter of a century. When the dust settled, the 41-year-old Horner was the last man standing from a generation that included Armstrong, many of his US Postal teammates and a host of other names.
That should be something to celebrate, right? Well, Horner is in fact named in the USADA Report. In Christian Vande Velde’s affidavit, a document Vande Velde signed under threat of perjury if he lied. In his statement, Vande Velde recalls that during the World Championships in Valkenburg, Holland, he was handed cortisone by Armstrong’s ex-wife before the start of the men’s road race. The USADA report lists the US men’s team from that race, however it doesn’t differentiate as to which riders were handed cortisone and which weren’t. However a source who participated in the race told Cyclingnews, ‘that the cortisone was just for the US Postal riders on the team’ a bracket Horner did not fit within, but something USADA did not make clear.
There has also been speculation that Horner is one of the redacted names listed in Levi Leipheimer’s USADA affidavit. Leipheimer was not available for comment, while USADA, when asked why names had been redacted, would only tell the website that, “Some names in the Reasoned Decision were redacted when the information was potentially part of an ongoing investigation and/or the information was not directly related to the Armstrong case.
“As indicated in footnote 9 of the Reasoned Decision, the investigation into the sport of cycling is ongoing and we continue to work on moving the sport forward for the good of clean athletes.”
When asked if Chris Horner was among one of the clean athletes USADA were trying to protect and stand up for, they told Cyclingnews, “From USADA’s perspective, all athletes are innocent and presumed clean, unless and until it is determined through the established legal process that they have violated the rules. Any attempt to speculate or insinuate that any person has doped, outside of the established process, is a disservice to the process, fair play and to those who love clean sport.”
That hasn’t stopped a number of blogs, forums and comment sections speculating as to whether Horner is redacted rider number 15. For the record, Horner has never tested positive, and has never been sanctioned by an anti-doping authority.
Last December, in the face of USADA 1,000 pages of evidence, the Vuelta winner told Cyclingnews: "I understand and I'm clear on how much information is out there on what Lance is said to have done but I'm also clear on the fact that he's passed all of his tests. Are you supposed to go back and erase those memories? I remember the 2005 Tour de France and Lance was the best guy there and he passed all the tests and won the Tour. I'm not going to debate if he won, he was there, he won and passed the tests."
That quote proves nothing. Horner has still passed every doping test he’s faced. And as demonstrated on the Monday after the Vuelta, he can even keep track of his own whereabouts system in a far more prudent manner than those trying to test him.
However the question remains as to whether he is a redacted name. A topic Cyclingnews tried to follow up with him on Tuesday after he had returned to his home in Oregon. In two brief conversations on Tuesday morning, Cyclingnews tried to ask Horner about the speculation.
Cyclingnews: There has been a lot of stuff on Twitter you may or may not have been aware of over the last few weeks. A lot of it speculation, a lot of it unfair but one of the points was the claim you are a redacted name, number 15 in the USADA report. Do you know anything about that?
Horner: No I don’t know anything about that. I’d have to read up on it or something.
Cyclingnews: I can give you the quote very quickly as I know you’re pressed for time. It’s in Levi Leipheimer’s affidavit, and it says…
Horner: Daniel, Daniel, I’m getting ready to drive right now. So there’s nothing I’m going to know on that. You’ll have to get hold of me another time because I’m on the phone and they’re going to give me a ticket if I’m driving with it on the phone.
Cyclingnews: Can I just ask one last question?
Horner: I’m driving with the phone and I’m going to get a ticket.
An hour later, Cyclingnews called Horner for a second time:
Horner: I’m busy right now. We’ll have to try another time. Thanks.
Cyclingnews: Are you free later on this evening?
Horner: No. I’ve just got home from doing the Tour of Spain, Daniel. I got three kids here and I’m done with the interviews. I’ve already done 200 or something like that. How come you didn’t come to Spain? I’ll let you go, I’m going to spend some time at home. Bye, bye.
[Horner hangs up]
A year after USADA’s Reasoned Decision and cycling is still feeling the aftershocks.