sport

Cumani backs Dettori

Trainer Luca Cumani has given compatriot Frankie Dettori his backing despite the rider's six-month ban.

The trainer, to whom Dettori was apprenticed when he first came to Britain, hopes his friend can put his suspension behind him as soon as possible for the good of racing.

The three-times British champion jockey, 41, tested positive for a substance widely reported as cocaine, following routine sampling at Longchamp on September 16.

Dettori's suspension, from French racing authority France Galop, runs from November 20 to May 19 and is likely to be reciprocated by racing jurisdictions worldwide, including by the British Horseracing Authority.

Cumani gave Dettori his first job in British racing in 1985 before he went on to become the Newmarket trainer's stable jockey.

The pair enjoyed great success together before Dettori moved on to become retained jockey to Sheikh Mohammed's operation Godolphin.

Cumani said: "I'm sad that this has happened and hope it doesn't happen again.

"He is the best jockey that has been around for quite a while and a great ambassador for the sport.

"He has done a world of good to the sport and let's hope he can put this behind him quickly and go back to where he was."

Racing pundit John McCririck believes Dettori deserves "understanding and sympathy", not only for what he has done for racing but having to endure all the pressures being a top jockey brings.

He said: "Non-performance-enhancing drug taking is more serious in racing than almost all other sports.

"With the dangers to jockeys and horses involved, race riding requires exceptional co-ordination and concentration.

"But many jockeys, like Dettori, are constantly dieting and sweating in saunas.

"Years of unnaturally punishing their bodies, travelling thousands of miles, riding out at work and on the racecourse often for seven days a week under intense public scrutiny brings unique challenges both physical and mental.

"Dettori, the mercurial public face of British racing and the world's top international rider, is no cheat.

"For all his public charisma and exuberance, he is subject to exceptional pressures.

"For 25 years he has earned our respect and now deserves our understanding and sympathy before being welcomed back next year on May 20."