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Charity questions Fallon drug claims over Newmarket.

Byline: Rodney Masters

RACING WELFARE officials have played down Kieren Fallon's claim that Newmarket is a hotbed of drugs - voiced during Monday night's BBC1 Inside Sport programme - saying there is no evidence to suggest that drug addiction is worse there than in other towns in Britain.

When Clare Balding asked the six-time champion jockey whether there is a drugs problem within the sport, he answered: "I know there is."

Fallon claimed that while drug abuse was non-existent in the weighing room, the problem was rife in Newmarket, which he stated had the "highest rate, for its population, of any town in Britain".

Richard Negus, the fundraising and communications executive for Racing Welfare, a charity that offers help and support for all employed in racing, said yesterday that the sport was facing up to addiction problems.

Negus added the organisation not only focused on drugs, but also alcohol and gambling, and that it had taken positive steps, including the appointment of a fulltime addiction support advisor. He was no evidence to suggest the drugs problem in Newmarket was worse than anywhere elsewhere, adding: "I worked in Edinburgh for five years and if Kieren believes there is a big problem in Newmarket, he should pay a visit there."

Negus believes racing, in fact, can hold its head high in tackling the issue, saying: "Rather than sweeping the matter under the carpet, perhaps as the armed forces have done, the industry has taken a positive attitude, with support from many organisations, including the Injured Jockeys' Fund and National Trainers' Federation, with the appointment of a full-time addictions support officer, Joe Carter.

"He's based in Newmarket, rather than in Lambourn or any other training centre, because 25 per cent of the population here are employed in racing."

He added: "There is anecdotal evidence that Newmarket is a hotbed of drugs. That is because we have several large nightclubs in the town and a big incoming population of young people.

"There is also a lot of international horse transport coming into the town, and they are not always just carrying horses.

"However, from the reports of Joe Carter and our other welfare officers, there is more of a problem with alcohol than drugs.

"I certainly don't believe that we, as a charity, think, 'My God, we're losing this battle', and the whole town is falling underneath the weight of drugs."

Carter, who has been in the job for almost three years, said that he had not met Fallon to discuss the matter of drugs in Newmarket.

He said: "Our aim is to work with employers in the racing industry to develop supportive responses to addiction. It is difficult to quantify the extent of addiction issues.

"Like any town, Newmarket offers the options to drink, take drugs or gamble, but it does have the biggest nightclub in East Anglia, and the geography of the high street means there is a concentration of the night-time economy."

He added: "We have worked with the wider community to provide solutions, including the SAS Bus, which is parked up outside the post office, where the team on board offer support for any issues."

BHA communications officer Turia Tellwright said yesterday: "The BHA's Welfare and Training Group has discussed the problem of drug use on many occasions, and the BHA remains committed to assisting in any way it can.

"Drug testing of stable staff is possible, but this is not a solution to the problem."

THE BBC reported that the Fallon interview attracted an audience of two million, the highest for the Inside Sport series of five programmes.

"The other shows have recorded viewing figures of between 1.6 and 1.9 million," said spokeswoman Lynn Williams.

She added: "We were thrilled the Racing Post gave the programme such good coverage in Monday's paper. A viewing figure of two million is considered very satisfactory."


Kieren Fallon: said Newmarket had the highest rate of drug use of any town in Britain
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2009
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