McDonald back in saddle for HK, despite drug drama

PHILLIP QUAY
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2012
James McDonald
PHIL DOYLE/Fairfax NZ
STILL RIDING: Champion New Zealand jockey James McDonald.

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Champion New Zealand jockey James McDonald has been granted permission to ride at today's Sha Tin race meeting in Hong Kong but it is not clear whether he has escaped charges over a positive drug test.

McDonald's manager, Gary Cossey, told the Sunday Star-Times yesterday that McDonald had advised him he would be riding today and "for the rest of the current season in Hong Kong".

"James didn't say much to me but it looks like the results of the urine test have been okay and he's all good to ride today," Cossey said. "But it's all a bit unclear as to what else is happening with James."

A statement on the Hong Kong Jockey Club's website said that the club's acting head of racing laboratory, Dr E Ho, yesterday advised the stewards that the urine sample McDonald gave late Friday afternoon had been found to be negative for hydrochlorothiazide.

Accordingly, the stewards have approved McDonald to resume riding track work and to fulfil his race riding engagements at the Sha Tin meeting today.

The stewards have also been provided with advice from the Jockey Club's medical practitioners that McDonald, who stood down from riding for the Happy Valley race meeting on Wednesday, due to a virus, has now been passed fit to resume riding.

McDonald rode at Sha Tin last Sunday but pulled the pin mid-way through the meeting suffering from flu.

Before leaving the course, McDonald was randomly drug-tested and the results confirmed the presence of diuretics hydrochlorothiazide and chlorothiazide, which are on the Hong Kong Jockey Club's banned drug list.

The Cambridge 20-year-old stood down from riding at Happy Valley on Wednesday evening and was replaced on two subsequent winners. The HKJC chief steward Kim Kelly said McDonald's decision to miss the Happy Valley meeting was not because of the positive. McDonald waived his right for his B sample to be sent for testing. At the request of the HKJC, he provided another urine sample on Thursday and it was sent to the club's laboratory for testing and this proved to be clear. However, it remains uncertain whether the Hong Kong Jockey Club will go ahead and press charges for the original positive drug test. McDonald, who this season has ridden winners in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and his homeland, is booked for seven rides at today's Sha Tin meeting. Diuretics help in overcoming fluid retention and were once widely used by jockeys struggling to maintain their weight, although they are banned in several racing jurisdictions, including Australia and New Zealand. The last jockey to test positive in HK for a diuretic – in 2000 – was Mark de Montfort, now a Sydney trainer.

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