Turf Club signals stiffer penalties likely for failed drug tests

Positive response to prospect of longer suspensions for jockeys testing positive for drugs

The Turf Club has said there has been a very positive response to the prospect of increased suspensions put in place for jockeys who test positive for drugs.

On the back of three jockeys – Ger Fox, Roger Quinlan and Danny Benson – receiving two-year bans for positive cocaine tests last month, a Turf Club Referrals Committee recommended that penalties for similar offences be increased to four years.

All three of the riders, who tested positive at a Galway meeting in October, had substantial portions of their bans suspended provided they meet certain criteria in future.

However the referrals committee said greater penalties in future are necessary to provide a deterrent against recreational drug use, from a health and safety regard and in terms of racing’s reputation.


Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan has contacted the Jockeys Association, the Qualified Riders Association, the apprentice school, Race, as well as bodies representing trainers and stable staff in relation to the prospect of stiffer penalties and increased testing in 2018.

Non-prescribed medicines

“There has been a very positive response,” he said on Tuesday. “The Jockeys Association has proposed an educational seminar for riders and that is something we will certainly do.”

The Jockeys Association has proposed advising younger riders in particular on what substances are prohibited and on guidelines in relation to prescribed and non-prescribed medicines.

However Egan added: “In all the years we’ve been testing we’ve had maybe one or two cases in relation to prescribed drugs. Generally, it’s not an issue; the problem is with recreational drugs.”

The regulatory body plans to increase its coverage in 2018 to more than 300 tests. A total of 178 were taken in 2016 while almost 230 have been taken to date this year.

Egan also confirmed that an appeal by trainer Pat Coffey and jockey John Fitzpatrick against non-trier penalties imposed at Navan on Saturday will be held next week.

Racing suspension

Nenagh based Coffey was fined €2,000 and Fitzpatrick banned for a total of 15 days under Rule 212 after The Monks Kitchen finished ninth in a maiden hurdle. The horse was suspended from racing for 42 days.

In other news the Willie Mullins-trained Polidam, a winner at that Navan fixture last weekend, has been made favourite by the sponsors for the 21st Paddy Power Chase on Day Two of Leopardstown's Christmas festival.

Polidam is one of five Willie Mullins entries for the €200,000 handicap while last year's winner Noble Endeavor is one 13 possibles for Gordon Elliott. Another Mullins hope, Acapella Bourgeois, is top weight among the 55 entries.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column