Frankie Dettori's 2012 season, which ended with him parting company with Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin after 18 years as No 1 jockey, has got a lot worse after it was announced he had failed a drugs test in France in September.
As the racing world celebrated all that was best about the 2012 season at the Cartier Awards, there was an air of shock among the guests that Dettori, one of the most recognisable faces in the sport, would be facing the medical committee of France Galop next week with the possibility of a lengthy ban hanging over him.
France Galop, who had not even informed their British counterpart the BHA of the case, instigated the inquiry after Dettori returned a positive sample following his ride on Farhh in the Prix Moulin at Longchamp on September 16. Dettori also had three other rides on what is known as 'Arc Trials' weekend.
As was the case with Kieren Fallon and Dean Gallagher – British-based Irish jockeys who also failed drugs tests in France – France Galop refused to issue a statement before the hearing, which is scheduled for an unspecified day next week.
In a short statement, Dettori's legal representative, solicitor Christopher Stewart-Moore, confirmed the popular Italian would be required to attend next week's hearing. "In compliance with and out of respect for the regulations of France Galop," it said, "he will not be commenting further until the France Galop procedures have been completed".
Dettori – who became a global sports star after his 'Magnificent Seven' at Ascot in 1996 – was not available for comment last night, nor was his business manager Peter Burrell.
One of the troubles with no statement, or very vague statements that do not even confirm what day the hearing is to be held on, is that they will lead to a week of speculation as to the nature of the drug which caused Dettori to fail the test and how it came to enter his system.
The jockey, who has entertained crowds with his flying dismounts for over two decades, has not taken a ride in this year's valuable Japan Cup, a race he has won three times, on November 25. Perhaps that is not such a surprise now given the strict stance on drugs taken by the Japanese racing authorities.
Early in his career, in 1993, Dettori was given a police caution after being caught with a small amount of cocaine in his pocket in London. In his autobiography he admitted that after some early success he had become a "tearaway, a nightclub wolf, a drugs dabbler, who was perilously close to seeing his career go permanently off the rails."
Speaking more recently, he described the incident as the "best thing that happened to me, but I didn't know it at the time. It was terrible because I wanted to walk round with a bag over my head."
In a 'Newsnight' programme on the BBC, Dettori also admitted taking diuretics, chocolate laxatives and even Lasix to help keep his weight down, before the Jockey Club outlawed them in 1998.
As a rule of thumb, British testers used to take a urine and breath sample of each jockey at least once a year but, among jockeys at least, there is a feeling that this has been upped this year. A minimum of one racecourse a week is selected and every jockey is breath tested – the limit for alcohol is half what it is for driving – and a dozen will provide a urine sample from a random draw.
When Fallon was banned by French authorities after testing positive for a metabolite of a banned substance at Chantilly in 2006 he was banned for six months. He tested positive again at Deauville on August 19, 2007, for which he received an 18-month ban.
Gallagher was banned by the French for six months in 2000 having tested positive for cocaine on three occasions and was handed an 18-month suspension by British authorities when he failed a test at Newton Abbott in September 2002. (© Daily Telegraph, London)