Frankie Dettori has had 15 random drug tests during the last two months as he prepares to make his return to the saddle at Leicester on Monday. The jockey, banned for six months after traces of cocaine showed in a sample taken at Longchamp last September, told Channel 4 News of his sense of shame and humiliation. "I feel like Lance Armstrong," he said. "They come and knock on my door any time of the day."
Interviewed by Clare Balding, Dettori attributed his "moment of weakness" to the deterioration of his professional fortunes. "Up until about two years ago I was having the best time of my life," he said. "And then for some reason things have changed. We had a new trainer, new way of doing things and I didn't know whether I was in or out."
Sheikh Mohammed had hired two other jockeys, Mickael Barzalona and Silvestre De Sousa, and Dettori found himself riding an outsider in the Dubai World Cup. "My first 17 years [at] Godolphin, I was always the No 1 pick," Dettori said. "All of a sudden, I saw myself being the fourth in the biggest race in the world, and it started from there and it was never an explanation why and what, you know. I had to accept it for unknown reasons."
When Barzalona rode Encke to win the St Leger, on the eve of his fateful visit to Longchamp, Dettori hit rock bottom. "My head was wrecked, absolutely wrecked," he said. "I couldn't take it any more." That night he sought reckless consolation for his depressed spirits. "I wasn't sleeping at night," he said. "I was arguing with my wife."
Dettori further indulged his injured feelings by accepting the ride on Camelot in the Arc for his employers' longstanding rivals at Coolmore. "In hindsight, I should perhaps have confronted Godolphin," he said. "I knew then, when I did ride the horse, that was me finished. For me wanting to leave, as much for them wanting to get rid of me. I couldn't take any more and the rest is history."
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