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LE HAVRE, France (Reuters) - Cycling should be treated the same as other sports when it comes to doping, members of the elite French team FDJ said on Thursday after three of their riders were subjected to late night blood tests.
FDJ coach Julien Pinot, whose brother Thibaut finished third in last year's Tour de France, and team doctor Gerard Guillaume were fuming after the anti-doping control carried out at 11pm on Wednesday.
Pinot, Alexandre Geniez of France and Swiss Steve Morabito were the three FDJ riders who were tested.
"Even if the sport has made many mistakes in the past, I think it's going somewhat too far," Guillaume told French TV.
"The first controls of the day took place at 6am...I guarantee you that it would make the front page of L'Equipe newspaper if it happened in soccer."
Julien Pinot referred on his Twitter feed to injections of corticoids given to tennis player Richard Gasquet to treat a back injury after the Frenchman reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
"Random test at 11pm while Gasquet qualifies for the semis with an injection. Not the same treatment by the authorities and the media," he said.
Gasquet, who reached Friday's semi-finals by beating Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Wednesday, was quoted by sports daily L'Equipe as saying: "Fortunately, injections exist."
The use of corticoids, while banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), are allowed if an athlete has a Therapeutic Use Exemption.
FDJ, like many elite cycling teams, are members of the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) that applies stricter rules than the International Cycling Union (UCI) and WADA.
Under MPCC rules, a rider cannot race if he has to take corticoids.
Pinot recognized his tweet had been provocative but said he wanted to highlight the situation.
"The media do not care that Gasquet has an injection. When (2013 Tour champion Chris) Froome had (corticoids) treatment for his bronchitis last year it caused a stir," he told reporters before Thursday's sixth stage of the Tour de France.
"Thibaut has had bronchitis for four days, he's being treated with plants."
Astana, the team of defending Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, were plunged into controversy last week when their rider Lars Boom showed low levels of cortisol, suggesting the use of corticoids.
Under MPCC rules he should have been rested for eight days and consequently not start the Tour, but Astana decided to field him as allowed by WADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI).
diting by Alan Baldwin