Dettori in doping scandal

Frankie Dettori, the racing public’s favourite jockey, was facing a potentially career-threatening ban after testing positive for a banned substance. The French racing authorities confirmed that Dettori had given the positive sample while riding in France in the autumn.

The French racing authority, France-Galop, was not precise about the nature of the banned substance. Dettori’s solicitor Christopher Stewart-More issued a statement: "On behalf of Frankie Dettori I can confirm that, as a consequence of a positive test at Longchamp on 16 September 2012, he will be the subject of an inquiry by the medical committee of France-Galop next week."

Banned substances for jockeys are hardly the performance-enhancing potions that were the downfall of cyclist Lance Armstrong, but the French authorities are particularly strict about medications or narcotics that can affect a jockey’s control of a horse. Depending on the detail of the test results, the regulations can encompass medications as innocuous as aspirin.

Dettori has a history of cocaine use and the systematic use of diuretic drugs to keep his weight down. The 41 year-old has claimed that the use of narcotics was a youthful aberration. He was cautioned for cocaine possession in 1993. Recently he said, "I was a stupid, cocky, arrogant kid. I was riding, I was winning, I was a kid who'd gone from earning £12 a week to getting big money. Too much money."

Fellow jockey Kieren Fallon can tell Dettori all about the rigours of a France-Galop positive test. Fallon tested positive for cocaine twice, resulting in a six-month ban in 2006 and an 18-month ban in January 2008.

The setback comes at a difficult time for Dettori, who is struggling to retain his status as one of Flat racing’s top jockeys. He has recently severed his successful partnership with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin organisation, the providers of most of his high-profile wins over the last two decades.

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