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Self-inflicted injuries cloud Dettori

Posted on - 22 Nov 2012


No matter what your avocation in life is, you are judged by your professionalism and your discipline. Accomplishment is the standard by which an individual is measured but it is his or her image that conditions the measuring process.
This story concerns two jockeys who ply their trade in racing’s stratosphere and in two very different parts of the world. They are Damien Oliver and Frankie Dettori. It has been a fall from grace for the two riders and what is sad is the fact the fall has been prompted by self-inflicted injuries.
The 40 year-old Damien Oliver, one of the perennial leaders in Australia, is in his third decade of riding. He has two Melbourne Cup victories in his curriculum vitae. Jockey Oliver has ridden winners in several other high profile races.
In October 2010, Damien Oliver was aboard Europa Point, the second favorite in a race at Moonee Valley. The public choice was Miss Octopussy. Oliver used his mobile phone to call a friend and make a ten thousand-dollar (Australian bet) on Miss Octopussy who duly won. Europa Point ran sixth.
The wheels of racing justice in Oliver’s case did not start spinning until recently. It was only in November that jockey Oliver was asked to appear before the Stewards of Racing Victoria. When presented with the evidence, Oliver did not contest the findings. He readily admitted guilt.
The Stewards banned Damien Oliver for ten months. There was also a two-month ban for using a mobile phone in a restricted place. The bans, however, will be concurrent.
In October 2010, Oliver was having marital problems. Drinking was also taking its toll. Oliver did not say that  his problems constituted extenuating circumstances. In a terse statement, Oliver said, “I want to apologize to the racing industry. I’m sorry for my actions.”
Michael Duffy, Chairman of Racing Victoria, spoke with clinical precision. “It’s my belief that the penalty delivered was appropriate given the cooperation afforded by Mr Oliver and the matters put forward on his behalf in mitigation of penalty. This is a powerful message to the jockey profession that there is zero tolerance of any breaches on the prohibition on betting.”
Damien Oliver can work horses in July. He can return to race-riding in September. It is estimated that Oliver stands to lose in the neighborhood of 400,000 Australian dollars because of the ban.
Now we come to Frankie Dettori. The England-based Italian has won every important race in the world with the exception of the Melbourne Cup. News came from Newmarket on Sunday, October 21 that Dettori and Godolphin will separate when the 2013 racing season begins.  Dettori’s decision to ride Coolmore’s Camelot in the Arc was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
On Tuesday, jockey Dettori was questioned  by the Medical Commission of France-Galop about testing positive for a prohibited substance on September 16 at Longchamp.  It was the Arc trials day. The Commission revoked Dettori’s license and forwarded the file to the Directors of France-Galop for further action. The expected punishment is a world wide six-month ban.
Jockey Dettori , 41, has responded  to the Medical Commission’s recommendation. “I accept the findings without reservation.” He cannot ride in the UK unless he passes a medical test. The latest news is that Dettori will not ride anywhere until he knows what penalty France-Galop gives. The ruling is likely to come within the next 15 days.
In a similar situation, Kieren Fallon served a six-month ban. He tried to get to stay to ride in Chicago but did not succeed. If my memory serves right, Fallon resumed riding in the summer of 2007.
The bigger you are, the more you think that you can get away with unacceptable behavior. Substance abuse and illegal wagering are transgressions that put a serious dent in a jockey’s reputation. Is there redemption? Yes, there is. It is not an easy mountain to climb. The examples of Garrett Gomez, Pat Day, Jerry Bailey and Richard Hughes come readily to mind. In September2008, I spent several minutes with jockey Bailey at Ascot when he talked about his struggle with alcohol.
In Dettori’s and Oliver’s cases, they ought to realize they are hurting themselves and in the process, hurting the fans who look up to them.  

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