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Chris Horner out of Vuelta a Espana due to low cortisol levels

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Chris Horner leads Vincenzo Nibali through the fog on the Angliru at the 2013 Vuelta

Chris Horner leads Vincenzo Nibali through the fog on the Angliru at the 2013 Vuelta
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Horner (RadioShack) holds aloft the Vuelta winner's trophy

Chris Horner (RadioShack) holds aloft the Vuelta winner's trophy
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tom Danielson (Garmin) shadows Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida)

Tom Danielson (Garmin) shadows Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida)
(Image credit: Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)
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Chris Horner (Lampre-Marida) tries to stay with the leader on the climb.

Chris Horner (Lampre-Marida) tries to stay with the leader on the climb.
(Image credit: Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)

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.

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.

“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.