JOCKEYS may have their hair tested for drugs as horse racing tries to clamp down on cocaine usage in the sport.
According to The Times, the new system would allow drugs to be detected in riders for three months after being taken, rather than around three days with the current urine samples.
In turn, this should act as a greater deterrent for jockeys to take cocaine and other substances to help reduce the problem – while tougher bans are also being considered.
The latest suggestion follows the news yesterday that William Carson – the 29-year-old grandson of five-times champion jockey Willie – was hit with a six-month ban by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) after testing positive for cocaine.
Carson admitted taking “eight or nine lines” in a pub two days before racing at Lingfield and Kempton.
His suspension was backdated to start from April 4 meaning – as long as his riding licence is still valid and he gets the all clear from the BHA medical team – he can resume racing after his ban is lifted on October 4.
He became the fourth rider to test positive for the drug this year with Peter Bryan, Kevin Lundie and Callum Rodriguez already caught.
Cocaine can alter metabolism allowing jockeys to lose weight, crucial in their profession.
And the BHA are desperate to take action to clean up horse racing and will consider revamping the punishments – in Ireland, the minimum ban for a first offence has been increased to four years.
He’s had depression and has got into the drink and cocaine after that. The best thing that happened to him was that he got caught.
Willie Carson on grandson William
Speaking to The Times, BHA’s chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill said: “We are interested in a hair-testing regime – it is on the table for discussion.
“It takes ten days for cocaine to get into a user’s hair but then it can be detected for three months.
“With urine tests it can only be detected for three days.”
Hill said it was “impossible to answer” if his sport had a specific problem with cocaine use but added: “It is an issue for society too. 8 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds are using cocaine.”
He also confirmed jockeys found to have taken cocaine will be assessed by the Sporting Chance clinic to see if they are likely to re-offend and then be recommended treatment or counselling for any mental health issues.
It emerged through a disciplinary panel that Carson has been struggling with depression for several years.
Grandfather Willie told the Racing Post William is “happier now than he’s been for many a year”.
He said: “He’s had depression and has got into the drink and cocaine after that. The best thing that happened to him was that he got caught.
“He’s been on a self-imposed ban from riding and he’s now attending AA three times a week, and I believe he’s even started going to church.
“We’re told with his addictions that he’s on the road to recovery, but with addiction you never know. He has said to me that it’s a pleasure to be alive nowadays.”