Chui cops six-month ban for ketamine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2009, 12:00am

Former champion apprentice Marco Chui Kwan-lai was banned for six months yesterday after testing positive to the drug ketamine, completing a miserable first season for the 23-year-old as a senior jockey and threatening his career.

Chui has not ridden for more than a month after tests of a routine urine sample at Happy Valley races on May 13 returned positive, and stewards stood him down five days later pending results of his B sample test from a German laboratory.

With the B sample also proving positive to ketamine, stewards yesterday reopened their inquiry and found Chui guilty of breaching Rule of Racing 60(1), dealing with providing a sample containing a prohibited substance.

Chui's ban has been backdated to May 18 and will end on November 18, almost four years to the day since his first ride in Hong Kong racing.

Last season's top apprentice rider with 34 wins, Chui emerged from his apprenticeship last October but frequent careless-riding bans have not helped him to gain momentum and he has managed only 11 wins for the season. His career tally stands at 78.

Chui (pictured) is believed to be the first jockey to have tested positive anywhere to the increasingly popular but dangerous party drug ketamine, developed in the 1960s by Pfizer with important applications in the spheres of human and veterinary medicine, not least as an anaesthetic for horses.

An important medical drug, its recreational use has seen ketamine placed on the list of controlled substances in the US and many other countries. Ketamine is listed under schedule 1 of Hong Kong's Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, alongside drugs like cocaine, heroin or amphetamines, and, in November last year, was described by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as 'now the most abused drug in Hong Kong'.

Yesterday's six-month ban - during which Chui cannot ride races or trackwork - is in line with previous penalties for Corey Brown, Andrasch Starke and Olivier Doleuze for cocaine positives and Cliff Lai Kai-kui for a positive test to methamphetamine, or 'ice'.

But ketamine's high news profile may mean Chui has not heard the end of it.

'We have dealt with Marco Chui under the rules of racing, which is our jurisdiction, so that is an end of it as far as we are concerned,' said chief steward Jamie Stier.

'However, I understand the police are aware of the finding and whether they choose to take the matter up is their decision.'

Chui, who pleaded not guilty, has 24 hours to give notice of any intention to appeal.

Highs and lows

1 First indentured as apprentice on July 1, 2004. Serves time in Australia and rides 11 winners Down Under in 2004-05.

2 First licensed in Hong Kong on November 4, 2005, and opens account with Money Honey on April 23, 2006.

3 Suspended for three days in September 2007 for failing to fulfil obligations as an apprentice.

4 Transferred to Tony Cruz stable and leading apprentice in 2007-08 season. Rides as senior jockey from October 5, 2008.

5 Returns positive after routine test at Happy Valley on May 13. Stood down from riding, pending B sample, which also tests positive.