The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has said that a confusion over an address led to Chris Horner missing an anti-doping control on Monday, the day after winning the Vuelta a España. Testing authorities were unable to locate Horner in the early hours in Madrid, but it was due to a delayed communication of Horner’s new whereabouts.
In a statement shared with Cycling Weekly, USADA said: “Horner properly updated his whereabouts information in advance of the test attempt, but given that the information was received in the US, the [Spain's anti-doping officer] did not receive the updated information prior to arriving at the hotel.”
The US agency asked its Spanish counterparts to test Horner in an out-of-competition test this morning. The officer, however, was unable to find Horner when arriving at his team RadioShack-Leopard hotel southwest of Madrid. Horner decided to switch hotels to stay with his family and notified the US agency via e-mail yesterday.
Spain’s newspapers, including AS, reported this morning that the officer was unable to locate Horner and that the team was unaware of his location. A missed test can be brushed off, but it is considered a positive anti-doping control if it occurs three times and results in a suspension.
While Horner flew from Madrid to the Oregon and enjoyed his Grand Tour win – the oldest winner ever at 41 years – his RadioShack team reacted. It issued a statement explaining how Horner notified the USADA of his new hotel, Hotel Ciudad De Mostoles, just six kilometres away in the same Madrid suburb. The team included a copy of Horner’s e-mail and of the agency’s automated response.
It said: “The team believes the communication between the Spanish Anti-doping Agency and the media is a violation of the privacy of Chris Horner, especially since it comes down to a clear mistake by the tester.”
USADA agreed with the team. It knew of Horner’s whereabouts and his availability between 6:00 and 7:00, but the tester had not received the update. However, it said that neither it nor the Spanish agency gave information to the media.
Cycling Weekly asked the US agency if Horner had missed any tests before. The agency’s spokesperson did not reply directly to the question but said via the press statement: “this is not considered a missed test”.
Horner has come under fire from critics who question how a 41-year-old was able to overthrow Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 13 years younger at 28. The oldest Grand Tour winner prior to Horner was Firmin Lambot, who won the 1922 Tour de France at 36. Horner’s best Grand Tour result, before yesterday, was ninth place in the 2010 Tour. Very few, including the team, saw Horner’s Vuelta victory coming.
In an attempt to quiet the doping rumours, Horner published some of his power meter data online. The team stands by him, but it has yet to renew his contract for 2014 due to complicated negotiations. He should be able to pull in a large salary with his win but given his age, his search for a contract may be difficult.