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Three Irish jockeys handed two-year bans for cocaine use

Ger Fox, Danny Benson and Roger Quinlan tested positive for a banned substance at Galway last month.

Image: David Davies

THREE IRISH JOCKEYS have today been handed two-year suspensions after testing positive for banned stimulants during a routine pre-race test in Galway last month.

Ger Fox, Danny Benson and Roger Quinlan provided urine samples during in-competition testing at Galway Racecourse on 10 October, and traces of Benzoylecgonine (metabolite of cocaine) was found in their A samples.

Appearing in front of The Turf Club’s Referrals Committee, all three did not contest the findings and accepted that they were in breach of Rule 277(i) under the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase regulations.

All three were handed initial two-year suspensions of their licences, before the Referrals Committee ordered 21 months of Quinlan’s penalty be suspended provided he does not breach the same rule again. His period of suspension will expire on 1 March 2018.

Fox, who rode Rogue Angel to victory in the 2016 Irish Grand National, was banned for two years but it will be reviewed by the Committee again in five and a half months provided he submits random tests to the senior Turf Club medical officer.

The reinstatement of Fox’s licence is also subject to a hearing in advance of the projected date of return to ensure that he has complied with the terms and conditions set out by the Referrals Committee.

Benson, meanwhile, will have his two-year suspension reviewed in six months on the grounds he engages in a drug rehabilitation programme.

On delivering the penalties, The Turf Club — the regulatory body for horse racing in Ireland — vowed to stamp out the use of drug abuse in the sport by increasing the starting penalty to four years.

“We can’t have another night like tonight where we had to deal with the referral of three riders, out of the eight riders that were randomly tested, who tested positive for banned substances on the same day,” a statement read.

“This represents in the region of 10% of the number of jockeys who rode at the meeting in question. This is unacceptable for racing. To date we have tried to impose punishments with an encouragement to undertake rehabilitation.

“This has worked in individual cases but it is clear that the deterrent effect of the penalties imposed to date is not enough. We are asking Denis Egan, in his capacity as Chief Executive of the Turf Club to write to all the representative bodies to say that in future the starting point for penalties for similar offences will be a four year ban plus whatever follows.

“There will be no coming back in six months except in very exceptional circumstances. What is currently happening cannot continue.”

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