Ger Fox on cocaine episode: I'm not a bad person, I just made a terrible mistake
Irish Grand National-winning jockey Ger Fox says he will regret taking cocaine until the day he dies and has urged fellow riders to speak out and seek help if they ever find themselves tempted by drugs.
Fox was one of three riders to test positive for cocaine at Galway in October and, speaking for the first time since a six-month ban was imposed by the Turf Club in late November, the 28-year-old admitted he was ashamed of himself and embarrassed.
"It was one drunken moment of madness on a night out and I'll regret it until the day I die," Fox told the Racing Post on Monday.
"It has just been one big nightmare. The hardest thing I've ever had to do was tell my parents. I felt sick and weak. I was so ashamed of myself and embarrassed. Not in a million years would I dream of ever doing it again. I've learned a very harsh lesson."
Fox says he has been scared to show his face in public at the races over the last few months.
"The way it was being talked about it was like I'd killed somebody," he continued. "I felt like a murderer. The last few months have been very tough. I didn't want to go racing or for people to see me. I felt like I had to hide. I was so embarrassed about what I'd done.
"I'm slowly coming to terms with it now. I'm in a better place than I was. I want to get my life back. I want to restore my reputation and prove people wrong.
"I want to change the public perception of me. I'm not a bad person. I'm not the man people think I am. I just made a terrible mistake.
"Fair play to Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell, they both came up to me and put their arms around me. They told me to keep my head down, keep working and that I'd be back in no time. That was reassuring, I really appreciated it."
While Russell and Walsh helped the rebuilding process, there was one man who did more than most in picking Fox up off the canvas and getting him back on his feet. That is Welsh Grand National-winning trainer Gavin Cromwell, whom Fox is now assistant trainer to.
It was a wonderful weekend for the Cromwell stable thanks to the success of teenager Raz De Maree at Chepstow on Saturday and Fox is enjoying his new role.
"I cannot find the words to praise Gavin [Cromwell] for all he's done for me," he said. "I needed people behind me and he was brilliant from day one. He told me that I didn't kill anyone and that everyone makes mistakes.
"He's put his faith in me and hopefully I can repay him. He's a brilliant trainer who has built himself up from the bottom and has set a fantastic example for someone like me who would like to become a trainer down the line.
"My parents have stuck behind me too, as has my girlfriend Nicola [Walsh]. I also received great support from Dr Adrian McGoldrick and Andrew Coonan. They were a huge help. I asked to be regularly tested and have supplied regular samples over the last few weeks."
'The general public don't really understand just how tough it is'
Fox says the the life of a jockey can be tough, especially during barren spells, but urged any jockey finding things mentally challenging to reach out for help.
"My advice to jockeys would be to talk," he said. "Tell someone how you're feeling. Confide in someone. Open up and tell someone how you are actually feeling. There's help out there.
"Mentally, it's so, so hard for a jockey if things aren't going well. The general public don't really understand just how tough it is. Trainers might not use you. Other trainers might want to use you but owners don't want you.
"You might have ridden a horse one day and get jocked off the next day, even though you've done absolutely nothing wrong. You start doubting yourself then. It's tough."
Fox can return to the saddle in June and is already looking forward to that day.
"I'll definitely go back riding when my ban is up in June," he vowed. "I'm looking forward to it. I want to work hard, keep my head down and prove everybody wrong. I'm not a bad person, I just made a terrible mistake."
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