Racing: Race-fixing reaches Lords

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THE HOUSE of Lords will next Monday debate the long-running police investigation into race-fixing and horse doping, which has so far produced 15 arrests but not a single charge.

The debate, taking the form of an unstarred question - limited to one and a half hours at the end of the day's business - has been called by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Falkland, and is the first time the Government has been called to account since the first arrests of the jockeys Jamie Osborne, Leighton Aspell and Dean Gallagher in January last year.

It will "ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the way in which the inquiry into possible criminal activities is proceeding and, in particular, whether they consider that damage could be done to the reputation of jockeys arrested and subsequently released without charge in the course of the inquiry".

Osborne, who along with Aspell was subsequently cleared - Gallagher remains on bail - said: "It's good news. As far as my situation is concerned it is over now, but I know exactly what the jockeys who are still on bail feel like."

Explaining his reasons for calling the debate, Lord Falkland said: "I am a racing enthusiast of 50 years plus. I am not saying that racing is either whiter than white or irredeemably corrupt - my position is nearer pure than corrupt - but the way in which the present inquiry is proceeding is leaving a trail of reputations which are damaged in the eyes of the public, inevitably, before any convictions have taken place. I think that is unjust.

"It is very unfortunate that international sportsmen, whose earning lives are sometimes quite short and precarious, should be put at risk in this way."

Further high-profile arrests were made earlier this month when the jockeys Graham Bradley and Ray Cochrane and the former trainer Charlie Brooks were detained and bailed.

The Queen's racing manager, Lord Carnarvon, is expected to attend the debate along with Channel 4 Racing's Lord Oaksey and the founding chairman of the British Horseracing Board, Lord Hartington.