Jockeys in Ireland who test positive for cocaine will face a five-year ban, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has announced.
The starting point had already been doubled from two to four years, but the IHRB is to adopt an even tougher stance following a recent increase in contraventions of the rules.
Denis Egan, chief executive of the IHRB, said: “The increase in the number of positive tests is very worrying, but racing is probably no different than what is happening elsewhere in society.
“Since 2016 we have had 12 positives for cocaine and five of these came in 2018 from 254 tests, so the problem is getting worse.
“Any rider caught in future can expect a lengthy ban and in many cases such a ban could potentially end a rider’s career so they need to be very careful.”
The IHRB’s referrals committee feels stronger penalties for the offence are justified following an “unacceptable” five positive results in 2018 – the highest number in a year since testing started.
A minimum period of 18 months on the sidelines can be expected unless there are “exceptional personal circumstances”.
A statement from the referrals committee said: “To date we have tried to impose punishments with an encouragement to undertake rehabilitation and we will continue to do this where we feel it is appropriate.
“It is gratifying that this has worked in individual cases, but it is clear that the deterrent effect of the penalties imposed to date is insufficient to prevent the recurrence of positive tests.
“Consequently, the future starting point for penalties for similar offences will be a five-year ban. It is not necessarily the case that such a ban will always be partly suspended, but this will remain an option where the evidence is such that rehabilitation should be encouraged on the facts of the individual case.
“Riders can expect to serve at least a period of 18 months of such a ban before reapplication will be permitted, save in very exceptional personal circumstances.”