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Cocaine scandal rocks Royal Ascot

ASCOT, one of the highlights of the English sporting calendar, was rocked by claims yesterday that racegoers had used cocaine at four locations on the course, including the Royal Enclosure.

The claims overshadowed Ladies' Day yesterday, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family. Police said that one racegoer had been arrested on suspicion of possessing a class A drug, thought to be cocaine.

Officers were viewing closed-circuit video film of spectators for evidence of drug abuse.

Course officials said that anybody convicted of possessing drugs at the meeting would be banned from Ascot for life.

The allegations were made in the London Evening Standard. It sent to a laboratory swab samples of white powder from seven toilets around the course on Tuesday, the first day of the four-day meeting.

Four samples tested positive for cocaine: one from the women's lavatory in the Royal Enclosure and three from toilets in the fashionable Paddock area.

The Royal Enclosure is usually filled with members of the royal family, the nobility and members of rich Arab families.

Security had been stepped up at Ascot after seven people were arrested for drug offences last year.

"All staff are being briefed on what to look out for," said Douglas Erskine-Crum, the chief executive of Ascot Racecourse.

"It is difficult if someone is doing something like this in a lavatory cubicle.

"The image of sporting and leisure events is bound to be tarnished when this happens. It is not the first time it has happened at Ascot and other sporting events.

"Drug-taking is fairly symptomatic of all major sporting events these days and is perhaps a reflection on society as a whole."

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(Daily Telegraph, London)

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