Racing: Dettori's lawyers consider action against the BBC

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FRANKIE DETTORI'S agent, Peter Burrell, yesterday promised "vigorous action" against the BBC as the jockey's legal team assess the harm inflicted on his reputation by a press release for its Newsnight programme, shown on BBC2 on Thursday night.

An item on the use of recently banned diuretic drugs by jockeys included an interview with Dettori, who admitted he had, in the past, used the so-called "pee pills" in order to keep his weight down.

However, it is the BBC's press release which has given rise to possible litigation.Headed "Dettori Tells Newsnight: I Took Drugs", it quotes the former champion, in answer to a question as to whether he still takes such drastic action to lose weight, as saying: "I try not to." The Corporation later added to that quote: "I try to eat a balanced diet but it is very tough."

Burrell insists the damage to his client had already been done. "We will be taking vigorous action," he said. "We are not litigious people, but there are things you get away with in life and things you get pulled up on, and they will get pulled up on this one. What we are concerned about is not the programme itself but the nature of the BBC's press release.

"We are aware that the BBC changed their press release, so there is an admission of guilt there, and we will be taking action against them.

"Nigel Calvert, our lawyer, contacted the BBC last night, and he will very carefully go through the Press today and we will take some course of action during the course of the day.

"This guy [Dettori] is in the top five in the world and he obviously has considerable interests outside the sport. All of his sponsors have been on this morning and they are horrified at the way he has been used as well - they are appalled at what the BBC has done."

Burrell was at pains to stress that Dettori would continue to co-operate with the BBC's sports coverage. "It doesn't affect his relationship with the BBC in general - we are going ahead with A Question Of Sport appearance on Monday week - and no doubt he will appear on a couple of BBC programmes in the autumn."

"It is not a war with the BBC, but the department responsible for this deserves to be pulled up - they have caused my client a lot of distress and damage in the past 24 hours when all he has ever tried to do is help them with their programme-making."

The Jockey Club press officer, John Maxse, chided Newsnight for its sensationalist reporting of the use of diuretics by jockeys. "I thought it was a shame that Newsnight felt obliged to portray the issue in the way they did," he said. "They ignored the fact that we had already taken account of the trend of a minor rise in the use of diuretics by adding it to the list of prohibited substances."