Driver’s drug use overshadows premier event

Go to Source

This week’s column was intended to address the horse racing industry for Saturday night’s $1 million North America Cup, the year’s premier event on the calendar. Instead, the game has been thrown for a loop by the revelation that Canada’s leading driver has tested positive for cocaine.


The news comes as a major disappointment to all participants because Jody Jamieson has very much been the poster boy for the game. And there has been much to like about the 38-year-old horseman. On the track, he has been Canada’s Driver of the Year on numerous occasions, several times he has represented Canada in the World Driving Championship and, amazingly for a catch-driver, he actually gave his time to sit on the board of directors of both Standardbred Canada and the Ontario Harness Horse Association. He has been the face of a number of promotional efforts by the racing industry and willingly accepted the responsibility that comes with being the headliner in the game and a public figure.

Little was known about Jamieson’s infraction until Tuesday’s North America Cup news conference when he was not listed to drive Hes Watching in the million-dollar affair. Then word began to leak out that he had a problem.

The Ontario Racing Commission confirmed he had a 15-day suspension but, because of its privacy policy on alcohol and drug infractions, little else was revealed. However, it was the worst-kept secret in the industry.


Jamieson, who has won over $100 million in purses, issued a statement Thursday to some select trade publications in Canada and the United States. In the statement, he admitted to using cocaine in what reads like a one-off incident and “an uncharacteristic, irrational and serious error in judgment.” He declared his feelings about disappointing and embarrassing his parents and family.

He announced he is visiting a substance abuse professional, endorsed the ORC random drug testing plan and apologized for his actions.


But there will be collateral damage from this. In short order, once the ORC gives the thumbs up and allows Jamieson to resume driving, there is no doubt he will back to driving a full complement of horses. Sadly, the vast majority of owners and trainers simply see drivers as a means to an end. Whatever happens off the track has little concern for them. They just want the driver who makes the most speed with their horse and wins the race — a totally mercenary approach to racing horses.

However, Jamieson will find that his credibility as a spokesperson on any racing issues will not have the impact that it had. If one is going to stake out the high ground, they better be sure they can stand the air, and this substance abuse incident compromises that.

How will the game be able to utilize his services, promotion-wise? What sort of message would that send? He serves on two industry association boards, which quite likely will remain unchanged, but again, what does that say about those organizations and the value they place on the people who serve as directors?


Also unanswered is whether or not Jamieson will lose his eligibility for consideration in the voting for this year’s O’Brien Award as Driver of the Year. Will he be disqualified for this infraction as horses with positive drug tests are?

At the same time, Jamieson’s misstep appears to be just that. He did not go into a school and murder students or anything of that nature. Cocaine is nothing to fool with and the man has very much disappointed many people who were confronted with the knowledge that he is not quite the package they thought he was. But this should not be a case of throwing him under the bus.

He is not the first horseman to step out of line, but it is well worthwhile to reflect on his counterparts who did not effectively deal with similar problems and subsequently are not held with the regard they could have been. They carve out a nice living on the track, but their reputations are in question.

Jamieson’s statement, which did not involve actually facing the media, was an effort to get in front of the story and, while a bit late coming, appears to have done that. Now he has to show that he can walk the walk.


Meanwhile, tonight he will have time to ponder being at home watching the North America Cup rather than being part of it.


Comments are closed.