Chris Horner has pulled out of his title defence at the Vuelta due to having ‘below healthy’ cortisol levels.
Cortisol is important for the body to recover after injury; Cortisones are medicine that affect the levels of cortisone in the body. The popular anti-inflammatory drug is also performance enhancing, which has made it a bone of contention in the cycling world.
Horner has been taking cortisone to treat a lung issue that has followed him since the Tour and had been given a Therapeutic Use Exemption on 15 August, which means he could have taken part in the Vuelta.
His Lampre team are part of the Movement for Credible Cycling, which subjects teams to more stringent testing for performance enhancing substances. Membership of the MCC is not compulsory for any team, Team Sky and Omega Pharma Quick-Step are just two examples of teams that aren’t part of the MCC.
Although his TUE would mean Horner could compete in the Vuelta according to UCI rules, Lampre’s membership of the MCC means that he has had to withdraw from the race. This has caused controversy amongst Pro Cycling and highlights the imbalance in terms of dope-testing amongst the World Tour teams.
In May a controversy bubbled up around Chris Froome’s use of an inhaler during Stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphine; which contained the corticosteroid Prednislone to treat his breathing problems. Sky defended their Champion by saying Froome has used an inhaler since he was a teenager, and waved a TUE from the UCI in the face of the critics.
The question is had Sky been part of the MCC would Froome have had to withdraw from the Dauphine? The issue will be hotly debated over the next few months, perhaps we can expect compulsory membership of the MCC in the future.
The 42 year old American Horner was an outsider to successfully defend his title in a race that includes big names including Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador; but he would have wanted to give it a go anyway.