Jockey Michelle Payne handed four-week ban for positive test
Melbourne Cup winner will be back to take part in August’s Shergar Cup at Ascot
Michelle Payne, the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, has been handed a four-week ban after testing positive for a banned substance. Photograph: Mal Fairclough/AFP
Michelle Payne accepted complete culpability and was full of remorse after the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey was handed a four-week suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Payne, who returned a urine sample this month containing traces of phentermine, admitted guilt at a Racing Victoria inquiry on Thursday and said she had made a mistake.
“I would like to take full responsibility and had I have known it would still be my system, and I would be riding with a banned substance in my system, I wouldn’t be riding,” she said. “I’m embarrassed and I’m sorry for that.”
The 31-year-old was prescribed the drug, an appetite suppressant, as she recovered from surgery on her pancreas last year.
It is an individual rider’s responsibility to ensure any medication taken meets anti-doping criteria. Phentermine appears on the banned list in accordance with Australian Rule of Racing 81B.
She told the hearing she was aware phentermine was on the banned list, but believed its prohibition only applied on race days, and not during trackwork.
Payne’s positive sample was taken at a race meet at Swan Hill on June 11th. She was informed of the result and stood down from racing and trackwork onJune 23rd, pending the hearing at Flemington.
Given she had already out of the saddle for nearly a week, Payne’s team argued for “time served”, but after deliberation the RV panel opted to impose the month-long sanction from Thursday.
The chair of the inquiry, Robert Cram, said stewards took into account her admission of guilt, regret and medical condition when coming to their verdict.
“However, notwithstanding those factors it is our view that you didn’t comply with your fundamental obligation to seek advice before taking the substance Phentermine,” Cram said.
The ban will end on July 21st, allowing Payne to race in August’s Shergar Cup international jockeys’ challenge at Ascot in the UK. She will be allowed to resume trackwork once she returns a clear urine sample.
Payne underwent surgery to save her pancreas following a serious injury sustained in a fall at Mildura in May 2016. She successfully applied for a trainer’s licence later that year and has since been pursuing a dual career as a jockey and a trainer. Payne now trains a small team of horses from her Ballarat base.
She is not the first high-profile Australian jockey to be handed a ban for testing positive for an appetite supressant – Hugh Bowman, one of the country’s top riders and pilot of the star horse Winx – was banned for six weeks in 2003, and Damien Oliver, the three-times Melbourne Cup winner, was banned for four weeks in 2009. Oliver late had his sanction overturned.
“I appreciate [THE BAN]is in keeping with other penalties for riders in breach of this rule,” Payne said. “I look forward to working hard and being in great shape upon my return to racing.”
Payne rocketed into the wider public’s consciousness in November 2015 when she guided the 100-1 shot, Prince of Penzance, to Melbourne Cup victory and became the first woman to win Australia’s premier race in its 155-year history.
Shortly after crossing the line, she delivered her famous “everyone else can get stuffed” speech, creating worldwide headlines while shining a light on what she said was a “chauvinistic” sport.