Former champion apprentice Marco Ghiani has had his licence withdrawn for six months after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine.
The rider was tested at Newcastle on August 25 this year and subsequently handed an interim suspension whilst disciplinary proceedings were arranged.
Ghiani admitted taking cocaine on two occasions, latterly two days before the positive test, and via his legal representative, Rory MacNeice, did not challenge the findings of the British Horseracing Authority.
The panel of Philip Curl, Alison Royston and Dr Lyn Griffiths agreed to withdraw Ghiani’s licence for a period of six months, backdated to September 5 to allow for the period he has already spent suspended.
Ghiani was crowned champion apprentice in 2021 and has enjoyed notable successes for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, for whom he won the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, the Listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury and the Group Three Strensall Stakes at York – all aboard Real World last season.
Representing the jockey, MacNeice told the panel. “Mr Ghiani accepts the breach and accepts that he will serve a penalty at the top of the range of six months and he does not ask or seek from you a discount for making those admissions.
“Mr Ghiani recognises that this was a very grave error of judgement on his behalf. He has reflected considerably on how he got into this position.
“Essentially Mr Ghiani succumbed to the temptation at a time when he felt vulnerable professionally, Mr Ghiani puts a great deal of pressure on himself to succeed on behalf of those who engage him to ride their horses.
“He considers that he has, in the past, had some difficulties in being objective when he has considered his performances have not resulted in his horses running to the best of their abilities or winning races.
“He has a character tendency to move on from successes almost instantly, whilst allowing perceived failures to stay with him for a considerable length of time.
“One consequence of the positive (test result) is that it has triggered an awareness in him of the very considerable support available to him, particularly through the Professional Jockeys Association, in terms of counselling and help with these issues that he had previously felt unable to ask for.
“That is not help to overcome a dependency on drugs, that is not the problem or the issue in this case, but help and support in dealing with the pressures of his profession.
“Mr Ghiani is hugely embarrassed by these events, he has apologised unreservedly and he does so again today. Not just to you, the BHA, but to all of those who have supported him.
“Most fundamentally, Mr Ghiani apologies to his fellow jockeys. He feels that they would be entirely justified in feeling that he had let them down by his use of cocaine.
“He will work hard to regain their trust and if and when he is able to resume his career, he hopes he will be given the chance to make amends for that error of judgement.”