MADRID (AP) Team Lampre Merida says defending Spanish Vuelta champion Chris Horner will not compete in this year's race.

The team says it decided ''not to allow the athlete to partake in this Vuelta'' after UCI blood tests showed a problem since Horner had received treatment with oral cortisone for a lingering infection.

In the statement, team doctor Carlo Guardascione says treating Horner with oral cortisone after persistent bronchitis following the Tour de France and the Tour of Utah ''was the only way to resolve this problem.''

Horner became the oldest champion of the three-week Vuelta last year when he was 41.

The team says Valerio Conti will take the American's place and make his debut in a grand tour race.

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