Defending Champ Horner Pulls Out of Vuelta a España

American cyclist Christian, Horner, winner of the 2013 Vuelta a España, will not get a chance to defend his title because of ongoing health problems—and because of a conflict between UCI and MPCC anti-doping rules.

The 42-year-old Lampre-Merida team leader has been suffering with bronchitis since the beginning of the Tour de France in late June. He applied for and received special UCI (Union Cycliste International) permission to use cortisone to treat the ongoing illness, but the treatment left him with levels of cortisol, a naturally occcurring hormone, below the limits set by the MPCC (Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible) anti-doping group, of which Lampre is a member.

Lampre’s team doctor, Dr Carlo Guardascione on the team’s website: “After the finish of Tour de France and after the Tour of Utah where the athlete was still suffering from bronchitis, Chris Horner underwent two examinations by two specialists for his bronchitis as he had been suffering since the beginning of the Tour de France as well as during the Tour of Utah, both specialists agreed that a treatment of cortisone by oral means was the only way to resolve this problem. All the necessary steps were taken to request a TUE (therapeutical use exemption) and this authorization was given by UCI commission for the athlete to proceed with this therapy on August 15, 2014.

“Physiologically this treatment can cause a lowering of the cortisol, together with other factors such as jet lag after his travel from United States where he had a time difference of nine hours.

“After the necessary UCI blood tests were taken it showed a lower cortisol level compared to the minimul 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 authorization in order.”

Horner commented to the situation on the website as well: “Of course I’m sad about this news. I was willing to try to defend the 2013 title; the Vuelta was my main target in the season, the team signed me with the aim of being competitive in the Spanish race, but I accept the decision linked to the MPCC’s rules.

“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.”

Chris Horner was the first American rider to win the Vuelta in the race’s 69-year history.

Horner’s spot on Lampre’s nine-man Vuelta squad will be filled by Valerio Conti.

The Vuelta a España, 2014’s final Grand Tour, kicks off Saturday with a team time trial, and runs for 21 stages over 23 days.