Three Irish jockeys banned for cocaine use

Irish jockeys Ger Fox, Danny Benson and Roger Quinlan have all received bans for cocaine use.

In routine pre-race tests at an October bank holiday race meeting in Galway, the trio all tested positive for the banned stimulant.

All three were handed initially handed two-year suspensions of their licences.

Irish Grand National winning rider Ger Fox will have his suspension reviewed after five and a half months as long as he makes himself available for testing within 24 hours of being asked.

Danny Benson's ban will be reviewed after six months as long as he engages with a drug rehabilitation programme while 21 months of Roger Quinlan's punishment is suspended as long as he does not re-offend.

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The Turf Club (racing’s regulatory body) has this week vowed to stamp out drug abuse among jockeys by increasing the starting penalty to four years in future.

"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," said the referrals committee.

"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."

After speaking with industry insiders on this growing drug problem, Mark Costello of The Irish Field commented: "The lifestyle of a professional jockey typically involves extreme highs and lows. You are in the winner’s enclosure one minute and half an hour later you are on your way to hospital.

"It appears that some riders are now turning to cocaine in an attempt to recreate the buzz of winning and cope with the unique pressures of the sport."

This startling trend comes on the back of recent figures showing high rates of depression among jockeys – a survey of 122 Irish jockeys found that 49% indicated they suffered from symptoms of depression – there is now a greater concern that cocaine may become a coping mechanism in dealing with jockeys strict diet and depression issue.

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