Defending champion Chris Horner will not start the Vuelta a Espana due to low levels of cortisol. He has been replaced in the Lampre-Merida line up by Valerio Conti with the race set to start on Saturday.
Horner, who was aiming to become the oldest grand tour winner in history, suffered with bronchitis after the Tour de France and Tour of Utah. He was prescribed cortisone by his team doctor and applied for a TUE via the UCI.
Lampre Merida is part of the MPCC (Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible) which has strict rules over cortisol levels for riders. With Horner’s levels falling below the MPCC’s standards, the American and his team were left with little option.
“After the necessary UCI blood tests were taken it showed a lower cortisol level compared to the minimal level requested by the MPCC, thus the decision from the team to not allow the athlete to partake in this Vuelta even with having all the necessary UCI authorisation in order,” a team statement read.
“With this decision, the team reaffirms his adherence to the principles underlying the MPCC organisation, agreeing to respect the rules and regulations and not to allow the athlete to start the Vuelta even though this being an important appointment for the athlete after an investment had been made on behalf of the team.”
Under UCI rules Horner would be allowed to start the Vuelta a Espana, a race he has targeted throughout the year after his surprise win in 2013, and the rider was understandably disappointed to leave the race before tomorrow’s opening team time trial.
“Of course I’m sad about this news. I was willing to try to defend the 2013 title, Vuelta was my main target in the season, the team signed my with the aim of being competitive in the Spanish race, but I accept the decision linked to the MPCC’s rules,” he said.
“This bad bronchitis caused me a lot of problems, I’ve been suffering for it for weeks and this treatment could have allowed me to solve the problem.
“UCI gave authorization for the treatment, I could race according UCI rules, but my team is member of MPCC, I understand it and we all must accept this situation without regrets.”
Cortisol hit the headlines last June when it emerged that Europcar, also an MPCC member, had allowed Pierre Rolland to take part in a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné (from which he later withdrew) despite low levels of the hormone in his body, which is usually boosted by racing and training.
Last year Belkin's Theo Bos was pulled from the Vuelta a Espana on the eve of the race due to low levels of cortisol in his body. He was later cleared and began racing a month later.