So, as expected, Frankie Dettori picks up a six month ban for testing positive for a “banned substance” in France.
The French will not reveal when the banned substance is but it has been widely reported and, significantly, not denied by the Dettori camp that the substance involved is cocaine.
To his credit, although when faced with incontrovertible evidence would any other option be viable, Dettori has held his hands up and admitted the offence and then immediately went into what he thought was damage limitation mode.
He describes the incident as a “moment of madness” and says he has let down “the sport he loves” and worse of all “let down his wife and children.”
In an interview with the Daily Express he goes on to say, 'I was in a dark place, I was very low. My job was going down the drain.'
All very noble expressions but let’s look at them in a bit more detail.
He describes what happened as a “moment of madness” – well it’s not a single moment of madness is it as he already has “form”, having received a police caution for possession of cocaine back in 1993. He piously claimed he learned his lesson back then so did he suddenly have amnesia in 2012?
So let’s assume his “moment of madness” claim is true, then all that can be said is Dettori must be a very unlucky man. He has, twice in his life, had some “Charlie” and both times he has managed to get caught – now that is either desperately unlucky or it defies credibility. People can form their own views on that one – I know which I would tend to believe.
Dettori goes on to say he has let down “the sport he loves” – I have no doubts he does love the sport after all he has made his fortune from it and he is, undoubtedly, a brilliant rider. However he has also exploited the sport to his advantage.
Dettori is probably the first jockey to exploit the PR machine to build a Dettori brand. With his trademark flying dismount and his carefully nurtured image as a cheeky Italian always ready with a smile and a quote. The darling of the public because he is the complete contrast to many of his weighing room colleagues who keep themselves and let their skills in the saddle do the talking.
What many forget is the public persona is the one Dettori and his advisers want the public to have and, as is often the case, the reality is different from the spun image.
Most in the press room will have stories of extremely difficult encounters with a moody Dettori. Many describe him as a thoroughly unlikable character. Yes he is fine if giving an interview that will help nurture the image but try getting a normal racing quote and it’s a different story.
I’ve seen him launch four letter tirades at racegoers who have tried to speak with him after racing.
But at the end of the day Dettori has been the face of racing so his little foibles are overlooked for the sake of the sport.
What’s next, oh yes, he has let down his wife and children.
He has let down his children to the extent the bad publicity will probably result in his kids getting quite a lot of stick at school but that’s about as far as it goes.
The truth is he should have thought of the impact on his children before he decided to indulge.
As for letting down his wife – I don’t think so.
Finally there is his justification for what happened, 'I was in a dark place, I was very low. My job was going down the drain.'
So that makes it all OK does it?
There are many people in many walks of life who are under real pressure yet they do resort to talking illegal drugs.
To be honest the utterances from Dettori sounds like somebody wallowing in their own self-pity. “My job was going down the drain” rather dramatic stuff – for somebody working in a factory in an area of high unemployment then the prospect of losing ones job is a big issue.
Lets face it Dettori losing his job at Godolphin wasn’t exactly going to leave him and his family starving with the bailiffs at his door. He was still going to have a very lucrative few years as a freelance.
So I’m sorry those mealy mouthed words cut no ice with me and I don’t think many hard working people struggling to make ends meet would have much sympathy with Dettori’s excuse either.
Lest anybody thinks I have a heart of stone I am aware jockeys have a hard life, they have to maintain their weight, they potentially risk their lives every time they get on a horse and they need a hell of a lot of self-discipline. It is not something I would want to do – not least I don’t think they will ever have a minimum weight of 14 stone.
However most jockeys seem to managed without resorting to illegal drug use. For those who do fail support is needed and I have to commend an excellent statement from PJA boss Paul Struthers yesterday (http://www.thepja.co.uk/documents/Frankie%20Dettori%20Statement.pdf)
Dettori has not helped himself. He has created a “brand” in the public eye which works well if he can live up to that image. The trouble is if you set yourself up on pedestal the fall is much greater when things do go wrong as Dettori is finding out.
Dettori has a problem which I hope he can get sorted out. I believe it would be much better for him if he went away quietly and sorted his issues out, rather than issuing frankly nauseating statements which are unedifying and only make him look even worse.