Racing: Protest over dope testing for riders: A plan to check jockeys for recreational drugs has drawn criticism from the riders' spokesman

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The Independent Online
THE RANDOM testing of jockeys for recreational drugs, proposed by the Jockey Club this week, has been criticised as an unnecessary waste of money by Michael Caulfield, secretary of the Jockeys' Association.

The Jockey Club wants to carry out tests similar to those performed on competitors in most other sports and indeed on jockeys in other countries.

Urine samples will be checked for signs of recreational drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines - in much the same way as horses are tested for prohibited substances after a race. Testing for body-building drugs, such as anabolic steroids, is unlikely to be necessary as jockeys are usually more concerned with losing weight.

There was some backtracking yesterday over when the scheme will commence and there is no certainty that it will begin on 1 January 1994, the date put forward by Dr Michael Turner, the Club's chief medical adviser.

Dr Turner sees random testing as part of a 'natural progression' to bring Britain into line with racing in America and Australia, as well as Italy which introduced such tests on 1 July.

He said: 'Each test will cost around pounds 75, but that is a relatively small amount when you consider how much it costs to test horses.

'If it gives the opportunity of making sure that racing is that much safer - that you don't have jockeys whose reflexes are impaired or are unable to react to a difficult situation - then it is a small price to pay.

Although many jockeys have no strong feelings about being pressed for a urine sample, Caulfield is not a supporter of random checks.

He stresses that drug use among Britain's 1,500 registered jockeys is a not a factor and believes it is a slur on his members to suggest otherwise. He frowns on Dr Turner's assertion that the law of probability is bound to reveal one or two positive tests.

Frankie Dettori provides the only recent connection between jockeys and drugs, following his caution by police earlier this year for possession of a tiny amount of cocaine.

'There are far more pressing problems on racing's agenda than this,' Caulfield said, 'and it is not recognised as being anywhere near a concern or dire necessity.

'It will be a cost on racing's administration which the sport could well do without.'

Richard Dunwoody, the champion jump jockey, sees testing as a reality, but warned: 'A lot of the lads ride under prescribed pain killers so you have got to be careful with threshold levels.'

No penalty structure has yet been decided, but jockeys in Kentucky, US, face a ban from racing of 15 years for a third drug-related offence, while in Australia each case is dealt with individually.

A precautionary inspection will be held at Redcar at 7.30am. Although the going is described as good, there is standing water on parts of the course.

(Photograph omitted)