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Italian riders question need for night time anti-doping tests

Italian riders Vincenzo Nibali, Filippo Pozzato and Giovanni Visconti have questioned the World Anti-Doping Agency's call for night time tests as a way to the fight against possible micro-dosing of substances with a short detection window.

In its Independent Observers report on the anti-doping testing carried by the UCI at this year's Tour de France, WADA recommended that "a more varied, targeted and aggressive approach to catching cheating riders be a priority for the UCI. This should include, but not be limited to, increasing the number of anti-doping tests, testing in less acceptable hours with a greater chance of detecting substances and/or methods with short detection windows."

There is currently an agreement in place where riders can be tested until ten o'clock in the evening and after six o'clock in the morning. Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian riders claimed that testing later than this was not necessary.

Current Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti said: "I'm not surprised by anything anymore. We've accepted everything and we'll probably accept this too. We're different to other athletes. Try and wake up a football player before the final of the Champion's League! Doping exists but the controls are efficient and very severe. Not letting us sleep at night seems obsessive."

Vuelta winner Vincenzo Nibali tried to find the funny side of the idea of nigh time anti-doping tests.

"If they want, the anti-doping inspectors can sleep in our room. There's no problem," he joked.

"When I won the Giro stage to Asolo I was tested at the end of the stage and an hour after in the hotel. I've also been tested during the evening and then the morning after. During the whole season I've probably had about 70 either blood or urine tests."

The Liquigas-Doimo team doctor, Roberto Corsetti, who is also head of the Italian cycling team's doctors association (AiMeC), backed up the riders.

"In the (WADA) inspectors report there's no scientific explanation why doing a control at two at night or at five in the morning could give different results compared to ten o'clock or six in the morning," he pointed out.

"I can certify that the surprise tests really are surprise tests. My experience shows that they happen before mountain stages and on rest days but also after tough mountain stages and on the morning of stages that aren't that important."

"A rider who wins a grand tour is tested virtually every day as the race leader, the stage winner, because of his biological passport and surprise tests near the end of the race. That's a total of 20."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.