Defending champion Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) has withdrawn from the Vuelta a Espana on the eve of the race on medical grounds.
The American veteran, 42, has been suffering from bronchitis since the Tour de France and was prescribed cortisone – for which the UCI granted him a therapeutical use exemption (TUE).
However, the course of the medication, combined with jet lag caused from flying over from America – where Horner finished second at the Tour of Utah – saw the cortisol level in his blood drop below the Movement for Credible Cycling’s (MPCC) minimal level.
As members of the movement, Horner’s Lampre-Merida team have therefore taken the decision to remove him from their roster, despite the veteran being cleared to race by the UCI. Grand Tour debutant Valerio Conti will take Horner’s place.
A disappointed Horner said: “Of course I’m sad about this news. I was willing to try to defend the 2013 title and 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.
“The UCI gave authorization for the treatment, I could race according UCI rules, but my team is a member of the MPCC, I understand it and we all must accept this situation without regrets.”
The team’s head of medical staff, Dr Carlo Guardiascione, explained the situation in more detail, adding: “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.
“Both specialists agreed 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 and this authorisation was given by UCI commission for the athlete to proceed with this therapy on August 15.
“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 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 statement on the Lampre-Merida team website added: “With this decision, the team reaffirms its adherence to the principles underlying the MPCC organisation.
“[We are] agreeing to respect the rules and regulations and not to allow the athlete to start the Vuelta, even with this being an important appointment for the athlete after an investment had been made on behalf of the team.”
Lampre-Merida for the 2014 Vuelta a Espana
Valerio Conti (ITA)
Winner Anacona (COL)
Damiano Cunego (ITA)
Elia Favilli (ITA)
Roberto Ferrari (ITA)
Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL)
Filippo Pozzato (ITA)
Ariel Richeze (ARG)
Jose Serpa (COL)