De la Sayette gets six-month ban for positive cocaine test

Young jockey Benoit de la Sayette has been handed a backdated six-month ban for testing positive for cocaine earlier this year and could return to the saddle in October.

The 18-year-old star apprentice, who won the valuable Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster in March, was suspended by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in April after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine.

It followed a video, circulated on social media, claiming to show De la Sayette at a party in the presence of drugs following his Doncaster victory on Haqeeqy for his boss, trainer John Gosden.

The BHA subsequently arranged to take urine and hair samples from De la Sayette on March 31. The urine sample returned negative on the same day the test was administered, but a hair sample had returned positive.

At a disciplinary hearing on Thursday, Ciara McElvogue, representing the BHA, said the rider had admitted taking cocaine “around three or four times” between August 2020 and January 2021, after falling in with a “bad crowd” while living in Newmarket.

De la Sayette wins the Lincoln Handicap on Haqeeqy at Doncaster in March
Image: De la Sayette wins the Lincoln Handicap on Haqeeqy at Doncaster in March

De la Sayette was represented by Rory Mac Neice, who said the rider takes “full responsibility for the position he now finds himself in” and explained De la Sayette came into contact with cocaine through people he lived with, when he “succumbed to temptation”, before ceasing his use of the drug when moving back in with his parents in February this year.

“Mr De la Sayette has made a mistake and he entirely understands and embraces that, he won’t be the first teenager to have done so and he possibly won’t be the last,” said Mac Neice.

“He is very young, to his credit he had recognised prior to the positive test the need to make changes to his living arrangements and he had taken the counsel and advice of his parents and Mr (John) Gosden and he had made changes.

“He recognised the complete incompatibility of allowing himself to succumb to temptation with his ambition to become a professional jockey.

De la Sayette admitted taking cocaine 'around three or four times' between August 2020 and January 2021, after falling in with a 'bad crowd'
Image: De la Sayette admitted taking cocaine ‘around three or four times’ between August 2020 and January 2021, after falling in with a ‘bad crowd’

“His entire focus now and throughout the late spring and summer of this year has been to work hard at Mr Gosden’s yard to ensure that should he be given a second chance as a rider, he is able to pay back those who have helped him through this period.

“Mr De la Sayette apologises without reservation and all ultimately he can say is that he has learned the hard lessons of this episode in his life and he has learned those lessons well.”

McElvogue told the panel there was “no suggestion or evidence” De la Sayette ever rode in a race under the influence of cocaine, but presented the evidence of a toxicologist who studied the hair sample as indicating “the likely use of cocaine in the period of January to March”.

She stressed the time period involved was estimated and did not say it amounted to a finding of continuing use through that period, but Tim Charlton QC, chairing the panel, felt the evidence was a cause for concern.

In handing down a six-month suspension, he told De la Sayette he had “misgivings about the fullness of the explanation you have given in the light of the expert evidence we have”.

He added: “Even though that expert evidence may not be something that we treat as gospel, it’s not written in stone, this panel is nevertheless concerned about the fact that you have on the face of it been using cocaine after you had returned home.

“That’s a possibility that the expert evidence opens and therefore being at home does not seem on that expert evidence to have cured the problem you had with the use of cocaine. That’s a matter you will need to confront, perhaps, when you come before the licensing committee.”

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