Oisin Murphy can’t really be described as a rising star amongst jockeys anymore. He’s already a star rider and a force to be reckoned with on the big stages of racing. In addition to all his well chronicled success in both Europe and in Japan, the Champion Jockey recently claimed his first British Classic victory as Kameko finished best to claim a scintillating win in the Group 1 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas.
In a surprise announcement it was revealed Oisin tested positive for cocaine. Murphy was said to have returned a positive test for metabolites of the drug in a test taken in France on July 19. A second sample test results are pending. If the B sample also comes up positive Murphy would face a six month ban from the saddle. That just might not happen.
Oisin almost immediately issued a statement not only denying use of cocaine now, but denies it at any point in his life.
“I have never taken cocaine in my life and I will do everything that I can to prove that I have not taken cocaine, I want to thank those who are supporting me and in the meantime I want to keep riding winners and focus on my career.”
In addition to the above statement Murphy arranged for an independent hair follicle test, which is known to be the most accurate form of testing for cocaine use and includes detecting use going back over a period of time. The test was filmed to substantiate authenticity, and the results were negative for cocaine use and forwarded to France Galop.
Murphy, who rides for Qatar Racing and an ever increasing list of top stables, became champion jockey in Britain for the first time in 2019. As of today he is leading this year’s championship with 111 winners, which has him 13 ahead of William Buick who is in second place.
Murphy is not the only star rider to be accused of using cocaine, nor is this the only time hair follicle testing has been used.
Kieren Fallon and Frankie Dettori have both served long suspensions from the saddle in the past after testing positive for cocaine. Fallon was first suspended for six months in 2006 and then for 18 months in 2008, while Dettori was out of the saddle for six months from December 2012.
Back in July of 2005 jockey Pat Valenzuela took a bit of a different approach than Murphy did. Valenzuela was asked by the CHRB in California to submit to a hair follicle test. He had shaven his head and body, and a CHRB enforcement officer determined Valenzuela could not produce a hair sample. He was summarily suspended by the stewards July 2.
In a November decision that year, administrative law judge H. Stewart Waxman ruled the CHRB had erred, and that hair follicles referred to the hair that starts beneath the skin surface. He said the CHRB had confused hair follicles with hair strands. He ruled Valenzuela thus had hair follicles to test, and that the CHRB failed to administer the test. Waxman wrote that “the Board of Stewards’ decision to uphold (Valenzuela’s) July 2 summary suspension for maintaining his hair at a length insufficient for hair strand or hair shaft testing is deemed arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion and that Valenzuela did not fail to comply with the order to submit to a hair follicle test.”
Obviously these two cases differ, and Murphy is using the follicle testing procedure to try and clear his name at his own expense. Murphy should be given the benefit of doubt until the B sample is returned. The young rider has always been accessible to both media and fans alike, and handles his business in a professional and transparent manner. That type of conduct has extended to the riders handling of this current situation.