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Downey appeal against cocaine ban fails - BHA is asked not to enforce suspension

Jockey Robbie Downey faces a six-month suspension
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Robbie Downey has failed in his attempt to get a six-month suspension overturned following a positive test for a metabolite of cocaine at Le Lion-d'Angers in June. 

But with Professional Jockeys Asccociation chief executive Paul Struthers "very concerned" about the handling of Downey's case, a request has been placed with the BHA to take the virtually unprecedented step of not reciprocating the ban in Britain. 

"Robbie is bitterly disappointed to have been unsuccessful in his appeal," said Struthers on Friday. "His suspension is due to commence on November 22. We have already lodged on his behalf an application to the BHA for the suspension not to be reciprocated.

"I remain very concerned that Robbie is a victim of a miscarriage of justice and we look forward to our hearing in front of the disciplinary panel."

Robbie Downey and PJA claim miscarriage of justice over French cocaine ban

Hair sample evidence 'not conclusive'

Ahead of the first disciplinary hearing Downey and his legal team had hair samples analysed by laboratories in Britain and France in the hope of proving his innocence, and were buoyed by a recent BHA announcement that such tests could soon become part of the testing regime in Britain. 

The AlphaBiolabs testing of Robbie Downey's hair found no evidence of cocaine use

But following the appeal hearing in Paris on Thursday, three stewards came to the conclusion that no fresh evidence had been shown to them which would enable them to consider revisiting last month's original disciplinary panel decision. 

During the appeal hearing Downey testified that he has never taken cocaine or any other drug, and was unaware of being associated with anyone else who had. 

Moreover, his team claimed that the hair tests carried out by AlphaBiolabs in London and Paris-based Toxlab proved an absence of cocaine in Downey's system for three months, a period extending back before his ride on the Madeleine Tylicki-trained Coeur D'Amour on June 19. 

Jockey Robbie Downey faces a six-month suspension

The appeal stewards accepted the findings of a BHA medical protocol showing Downey not to be a habitual user, and therefore lifted the France Galop medical commission's ban on his fitness to ride, the precursor in France to any disciplinary case for a positive test. 

But they rested on the same conclusions as the original panel when it came to the absence of any explanation for the positive urine test, other than what they described as an "unsubstantiated theory" that the sample may have been contaminated. 

The appeal panel also referred to the AlphaBiolabs disclaimer that weak or one-off doses of cocaine might not be detected by the hair analysis, and highligted what they described as insufficient documentation to conclusively show that the hair tested was Downey's. 

The next steps

Downey is currently riding in India and his suspension is due to commence on November 22. 

Under BHA rules the act of applying for a hearing in front of the disciplinary panel puts a stay on the suspension, although all parties are hopeful that the hearing can take place within the next two weeks and thus before any ban comes into effect. 

In the normal run of events any disciplinary suspension handed down in a racing nation which is signatory to the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering is automatically reciprocated by the governing body that holds that jockey's licence, and from there around the world.

Martin Dwyer successfully appealed to the BHA not to reciprocate a 56-day ban for a riding offence in India

The most high profile case where that did not take place was that of Martin Dwyer, who in 2013 successfully applied to the BHA not to reciprocate a 56-day ban handed down by stewards of the Royal West India Turf Club following an incident where he was accused of not riding a horse out to obtain its best placing.  

Dwyer's ban was in effect ignored by the BHA on grounds they described as "the tenets of natural justice", although an appeal not to reciprocate a 2012 suspension involving Richard Hughes and the same Indian jurisdiction was thrown out. 

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I remain very concerned that Robbie is a victim of a miscarriage of justice and we look forward to our hearing in front of the disciplinary panel

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Robbie Downey
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