Let’s not beat about the bush here, the use of any kind of illegal drug in sport in general is abhorrent. Not only is it almost certainly harmful to the wrongdoer, it’s an attempt to cheat genuine rivals and usually the paying public. The actions of the likes of Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson are reprehensible and they deserve to have their names struck from the record books. But can we really tar everyone who has strayed from the straight and narrow with the same brush?
There’s been no official confirmation but Frankie Dettori‘s misdemeanours apparently involved recreational rather than performance-enhancing stimulants and that’s why the racing public should probably give the veteran Italian jockey another chance. There are some who nod sagely and say that recent events explain how Dettori always appears so bubbly. Of course, nobody smiles all of the time and Frankie is no longer in the full flush and youth and, sometimes, will feel his advancing years when trying to compete with much younger rivals. But racing needs characters like him, albeit drugs-free. In British racing, A P McCoy may ride more winners and Ryan Moore may have more steely determination. Richard Hughes has managed to adjust his riding style and become champion jockey but none of them are as entertaining as Frankie in front of a camera, his ‘Flying Dismount’ still a trademark after big-race success. One does wonder if Sheikh Mohammed had more than an inkling that his retained rider had been a naughty boy when severing their long-standing connection earlier this year – the timing makes sense. But, after a suitable period of rehabilitation, that’s no reason for the rest of us to give up on one of the most extrovert characters on the racecourse.
Paddy Power are offering 4/1 that Dettori returns with a winner when his ban ends in 2013 and Evens that he rides a Group 1 winner in either the UK or Ireland next year. There’s a rumour that Ballydoyle may give him some help in that respect. Coral go 10/1 that he rides a UK Classic winner in 2013 but we already know he’ll miss both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas. The same firm thinks he may branch out into reality TV and only offer 2/1 that the Italian appears in either I’m A Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing or Celebrity Big Brother next year.