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Dettori in TV diuretics row; Horrified jockey insists Newsnight story is 10 years out of date.

FRANKIE DETTORI was last night caught up in a row over the use of banned diuretic drugs after BBC2's Newsnight programme reported that the former champion jockey was one of a number of riders who had used the recently outlawed pills to aid weight loss, writes Richard Griffiths.

Dettori yesterday expressed his "horror" at the contents of the Newsnight report, while his agent Peter Burrell claimed the jockey had been "stitched up" as he has not used diuretics for over 10 years.

The programme also features current champion Kieren Fallon as well as apprentice Paul Fitzsimons. The latter claims many riders are ignoring the Jockey Club ban on use of

diuretics which was instituted in June, and that use of 'pee pills' is still common in the weighing room.

Dettori and Burrell contacted lawyers yesterday to consider taking out an injunction to stop the report being shown on Newsnight before eventually ruling out such a dramatic option on the grounds of cost.

But they are still considering legal action against the wording of a press release about the Newsnight programme issued by the BBC yesterday.

Burrell said: ''The contents and headline of the release are totally incorrect, misleading and defamatory. We notified the BBC to withdraw and retract, to minimise the damage that this press release has caused Mr Dettori.

''We have not seen the contents of the programme and at this stage Mr Dettori's reaction is one of horror, shock and disbelief. We are taking legal advice."

On the programme, Dettori says: ''I took lasix, pee pills, I took diuretics - all sorts. I tried everything. Unfortunately it's part of the job - not because we like it, it's because, unfortunately, it's things we have to do to keep our weight down . Like everything else, you start with one, then it doesn't work and you have to take two or three, and in the end you're almost taking a full packet to make it work.''

The effects of such heavy use of

diuretics would be dramatic, causing not only the intended loss of weight through excessive urinating, but also severe stomach cramps and general weakness.

But Dettori is understood to be upset by the quotes used on Newsnight because he has not used diuretics in over 10 years.

Burrell added: ''What he said to them was that every jockey in the world has tried every trick in the book to try and lose a stone below their natural body weight.

''But long-term those things don't work. You can only control your weight through a very rigorous diet and the sauna.''

Dettori is also asked whether he still took diuretic pills, and, according to the press release, replies: ''I try not to.''

But the BBC last night made an addition to that quote - ''I try to eat a balanced diet but it is very tough.''

A BBC spokesman, Mark Ogle, confirmed last night that lawyers representing

Dettori had been in contact over the quotes attributed to him.

Ogle said: ''We want to make clear that we are not saying he has taken banned drugs since the ban was introduced. We want to make that very clear.''

He added that the Newsnight piece was compiled to coincide with the publication of a report next week from UK Sport, the body which carries out drug testing in Britain.

Michelle Verokken, the company's director of Ethics and Anti-Doping, tells Newsnight: ''UK Sport is concerned because in the previous year we reported two findings - now that has increased to nine in the annual report and has subsequently gone up into double figures.

''It is a serious problem. It stands out more than any other sport because the use of diuretics could potentially give the jockeys serious health consequences.

''You could have the heart thicken and the heart under pressure. A jockey involved in a collision or falling from a horse could very well be involved in more serious bruising or damage - muscle damage, bone damage - that could actually be worse as a consequence of diuretics."

Despite Newsnight's claims, the Jockey Club's chief medical officer Dr Michael Turner said he was ''not worried'' about a rise last year in

positive tests on diuretics from two to nine.

Turner was quick to play down suggestions that racing has a major problem with the weighing-room use of diuretics, saying there had been no positive tests for such substances since they were outlawed in June.

He said the number of tests revealing the presence of diuretics in Britain was small compared to ''the 50 a year in France''.

Kieren Fallon tells the programme that jockeys now

resort to throwing up after meals as a way of controlling weight instead of diuretics.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Griffiths, Richard
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 24, 1999
Words:781
Previous Article:'Substance use is rife' Apprentice claims 50 per cent of jockeys are taking extreme measures to keep their weight down.
Next Article:Raise the minimum weight to 8st now.


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