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PJA calls for end to BHA investigation into Frost-Dunne case

The Professional Jockeys Association has called on the British Horseracing Authority to “bring to an end” its investigation into Bryony Frost’s allegations against fellow rider Robbie Dunne – because it believes a fair hearing has become impossible.

Documents were leaked to a newspaper, and published over the past two weeks, and the PJA believes the matter therefore cannot now proceed “however unsatisfactory that is”.

In the leaked documents, it emerged Dunne had been charged with  “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing. Days later, it was revealed a second complaint was made by a female rider to the BHA over a safeguarding incident involving a male jockey.

An investigation has been ongoing for more than a year – a length of time which the PJA also called “unacceptable”, adding that its members are “upset” because of the negative headlines created around their weighing-room culture.

The statement read: “The PJA has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations and has such a policy out of fairness, respect to the process and to natural justice being allowed to be served without prejudice. The PJA cannot therefore comment on the case specific details but must comment on the current, deeply concerning situation.

“The BHA has been aware of a potential data breach in relation to the leaked documents since August, and reported itself at that time to the Information Commissioners Office. It is vital that the investigation into the data breach is concluded as a matter of urgency, the cause of the data breach identified and anyone involved held to account for the distress caused.

“The length of time taken in bringing this case to a conclusion is unacceptable.  Now that material has been leaked to the media, and the information leaked is the charge letter and accompanying documentation that should only have been available to the BHA, Robbie Dunne and his legal advisers, a fair hearing is impossible. The matter cannot now be permitted to proceed – and we call upon the BHA to bring this matter to an end, however unsatisfactory that is.

“The PJA is aware that its membership is upset by the negative headlines about the culture in the weighing room that have been circulating this past week. The PJA understands and sympathises with their frustration, particularly from those female jockeys who have contacted us. We are grateful to them for respecting the process that must be allowed to conclude.

“The PJA published a Code of Conduct in May, which was the first of its kind in racing.  We expect our members to abide by this code.  We want to ensure that our sport welcomes everyone and we agree that people need to be held to account against a set of rules and codes of expected behaviour.

“We do not, however, accept the explicit and implied criticism of our membership as laid out in recent articles. The PJA does accept that there are ‘heat of the moment’ exchanges, not uncommon in sport, that are quickly resolved – and there may also be occasions when behaviours do fall short of the PJA’s Code of Conduct and the Rules of Racing.”

Bryony Frost in action on course with Frodon at Cheltenham
Bryony Frost in action on course with Frodon at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Paul Struthers, PJA Chief Executive, said: “Any individual subjected to behaviour that might constitute a breach of the Rules of Racing or the PJA’s Code Conduct must have the right to pursue a complaint, and that right must be respected. The PJA has no toleration of bullying and does not, and will not, stand idly by when it becomes aware of such conduct.

“When serious allegations are made it is vital that they are investigated thoroughly and speedily. Equally, an individual investigated for potential offences under the Rules of Racing is entitled to be subjected to a fair process and have a fair hearing.

“It is surely now impossible for that to happen in this case, however unsatisfactory that is for both parties.”

PA Media has sought a response from the BHA.

David Bass ‘humbled and flattered’ as he takes up new PJA role

David Bass has described himself as humbled and flattered as he takes over from Richard Johnson as Jumps President at the Professional Jockeys Association.

Johnson retired from the saddle in March this year, and Grade One winner Bass was put forward as his replacement.

Bass started his career with Richard Phillips, then made his name riding for Nicky Henderson and has subsequently struck up a very fruitful partnership with Kim Bailey.

“It was humbling and flattering when I heard my name had been put forward by some colleagues as a potential successor to Dicky,” said Bass.

“I discussed the role at some length with Jon Holmes (chairman of the PJA) and Paul Struthers (chief executive), and sought the views and advice from others, and decided to go for it.

“It is an honour and privilege to be the PJA’s Jump President. and not a responsibility I take lightly.  There are many challenges and opportunities, both for the sport and for my colleagues, and I’m really looking forward to working with Jon and the PJA team.”

The PJA has also restructured its board – which now consists of 12 members who will be supported by a newly-created Jockeys Advisory Group, made up of six jockeys from each code, with additional input from retired jockeys and current jockey coaches Andrew Thornton and Ted Durcan.

One-meeting rule for jockeys to continue this year and in 2022

Jockeys will continue to ride at one meeting per day throughout this year and next, after sending a “clear message” to the British Horseracing Authority that the majority of them are in favour of the arrangement.

The BHA and Professional Jockeys Association confirmed in a joint-statement that the protocol, initially introduced as part of measures to ensure racing’s safe return behind closed doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended through 2022.

The announcement follows a consultation with jockeys and industry stakeholders.

The BHA’s chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: “Jockeys played a key role in ensuring racing’s return in 2020 was a success, adapting to a new way of working in unusual circumstances while still producing at the highest level on the track.

Jockeys in action in the Ebor at York last week
Jockeys in action in the Ebor at York last week (Nigel French/PA)

“It is our job to do everything we can to ensure the welfare of our jockeys, and it has become clear over the last year that the overwhelming majority of jockeys appreciate no longer competing at multiple meetings per day, and having to contend with the physical and mental pressures this placed upon them.”

Dale Gibson, executive director of the PJA, said: “Horseracing is incredibly demanding on trainers, jockeys and racing staff – particularly given the size of the fixture list.

“When you factor in early-morning work, extensive mileage, financial uncertainty and the significant physical and mental challenges of being a jockey, it’s arguably the most challenging of professional sports for an athlete.

“The PJA conducted a comprehensive jockey welfare survey earlier this year, with almost half the membership responding.

“The one meeting a day rule was one area we asked members about. The clear message, particularly from Flat jockeys, was that there had been significant benefits to jockeys from the rule – which for most outweighed any negatives – and that the majority, including 72 per cent of Flat jockeys, wanted the rule to remain.

“Based on the survey results, the PJA board had no hesitation in asking the BHA to take this step, and I am sure that the vast majority of the membership will be pleased that it remains in place throughout 2022.”

PJA joint-president PJ McDonald added: “I am very pleased that the one meeting protocol has been extended, and believe strongly that it will benefit the long-term physical and mental health of riders competing today and in the future.

“This will allow us to achieve a better work-life balance, which is so important – whatever your profession.”

Former champion jockey Jim Crowley is among those to have welcomed the announcement.

“I think it’s good – a pity we didn’t do it years ago,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“In this day and age, there’s so much traffic on the roads now.

Jim Crowley has backed the continuation of the 'one-meeting' rule for jockeys
Jim Crowley has backed the continuation of the ‘one-meeting’ rule for jockeys (Tim Goode/PA)

“I tried to get up to Haydock last week, and it took me seven hours! The volume of traffic is just increasing …

“I’m glad it’s worked out. Everybody is getting a chance – because if you might not be able to go to to one meeting, somebody picks up those rides.

“I think it’s a big plus for jockeys.”

Saliva testing initiative welcomed by Professional Jockeys Association

British racing plans to introduce a ground-breaking pilot scheme of raceday saliva tests for jockeys to detect cocaine and other banned substances.

The joint-venture, developed by the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys Association, is set to begin this spring.

Announced on the same day as jockey Philip Prince received a six-month suspension following a positive cocaine test, the intention is that oral swabs will be able to quickly indicate presence of any banned substance in a rider’s system.

If the pilot scheme proves successful, racing may become the first major sport in Britain to use saliva testing – which would enable them to stand jockeys down for that day’s racing.

A BHA statement read: “Any jockey who tests positive would be stood down from riding for the day, in the interests of the safety of fellow jockeys and horses, as is the case with breathalyser tests for the presence of alcohol.

Jockey Philip Prince will serve a six-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine
Jockey Philip Prince will serve a six-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine (Mike Egerton/PA)

“As well as providing instant responses, saliva testing is also highly cost effective. If the pilot proves successful and the system is rolled out on a permanent basis, this – combined with increased funding being allocated to testing in 2021 – would result in a significant increase in the number of raceday tests carried out each year.”

The BHA’s chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea said: “This is an exciting and innovative proposal which could have a huge impact on our ability to protect the sport against individuals who are competing while under the influence of prohibited substances.

“We hope that the use of on-the-day screening, alongside increased testing capacity, will provide greater deterrent to potential offenders and greater reassurance to riders that they are competing in a safe environment, should the pilot be successful.”

Any jockey who provides a positive saliva test will then be required to undergo a second to confirm the result “for the purposes of any further investigation or disciplinary action” and will be contacted by the BHA’s chief medical adviser “to discuss any care and support that may be appropriate”.

BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea
BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dunshea added: “There is much more to tackling issues such as substance use than pure regulation.

“The BHA is also working with the PJA to take a wider look at this issue and how we can better educate and protect our participants and rehabilitate those who do become involved.

“We want to encourage a culture of openness within our sport. We want people to have confidence to come forward and speak up about all issues around health and well-being, and will seek to support anyone who faces problems or has found themselves in difficulty.

“We would encourage anyone who is involved with issues around substance use, or know of someone who is, to contact the PJA or the BHA’s Chief Medical advisor Dr Jerry Hill directly, or contact the PJA’s confidential helpline and support network run by Sporting Chance.”

Prince, who has ridden 69 career winners since 2009, admitted his breach of the rules and also confirmed he is already receiving residential treatment via Sporting Chance, which provides the PJA’s confidential helpline and support network.

“I would like to start by apologising to everyone I let down and to the wider sport and also to thank everyone that has helped me through this difficult time,” he said.

“The PJA, (trainer) Mark Lougnane and his wife Clare have been absolutely brilliant in the help and support they have given me.

“I’d also like to thank the BHA for their help, support and understanding through the entire process.

“I am still at Steps Together (residential treatment centre) – and without this place, I would still be in active addiction.

“I am now looking forward to my future back in racing and free from addiction and being me again.

“I am finally back in a positive frame of mind and looking forward to the future – which is looking much brighter for me personally than it was not so long ago.”

PJA chief executive Paul Struthers said: “I am delighted that Philip is responding so well to the support and treatment that is available through the PJA and that the honesty he’s shown and actions he’s taken since testing positive were given the credit they deserved by the disciplinary panel.

“Addiction of any sort is a terrible thing, and we are there to support any of our members who need it. While we will continue to foster an environment where we support those in need without judgment, and people feel able to come forward and utilise the help that’s there, it is equally important that we do everything we can to protect all our members.

“We therefore need a system that discourages poor decision-making in the first place, reduces the chance of addiction developing and encourages people to come forward for support at an earlier stage.

“One aspect of such a system is more testing, and it is for this reason that the PJA has been calling for more testing of jockeys for several years.

“We’ve been working closely with the BHA on the proposed pilot of saliva testing and very much welcome it.”