Fallon clinging to hope of escape from a new nightmare
The tumultuous rhythms of Kieren Fallon's career have never produced a crescendo quite as discordant as the one that seems to deafen us all now.
Yesterday Fallon remained adamant that the drugs test he failed at Deauville in August – as sensations go, a sequel that surpassed even the collapse of his trial in the Old Bailey on Friday – would prove just another exercise in patiently clearing his name. At the same time, however, on the other side of the world, the man who trains his best mounts was fearing that Fallon had again been betrayed by the frailties that undermine one of the most potent personalities in sport.
Predictably, this latest chapter in a bewildering saga seemed to sustain its abiding theme of ambiguity. On the face of it, testing positive for cocaine after winning a Group One race on 19 August – on a horse named, of all things, Myboycharlie – would seem the clearest possible confirmation of a grotesque instinct for self-destruction in the six-time champion jockey. After all, it was only two months previously that Fallon had completed a six-month ban after failing another test in France last year.
In any humane judgement, these lapses might well reflect the oafish calumny he has endured during the three and a half years since his arrest. Yet this episode – at the age of 42 – will be the final straw even for some of his most loyal supporters.
Fallon's lawyers are generally thought to be waiting for the results of counteranalysis, but it is understood that these have already arrived, and corroborate the first test. Apparently, however, the peculiar purity of the sample defies lucid explanation. As a rule, by the time it leaves the body, cocaine is broken down into the sort of metabolite traced in the sample that Fallon gave when he was banned last year.
Fallon himself wants to leave all hypotheses to his lawyers, who hope to accelerate the French disciplinary procedure to the point where the situation can be resolved within days. For now he simply reiterates the sort of plea of innocence that has already found spectacular vindication once.
He admits that he was aware of the new storm on the horizon throughout the two months of his trial. "It was a killer, knowing that it was there to be dealt with afterwards," he said. "It put a dampener on the whole thing, on all the relief of the trial ending."
His employers at Coolmore Stud – John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith – showed Fallon great fidelity throughout his battle to clear his name of race-fixing allegations. Indeed, it is believed that they spent £3m in exposing the scandalous inadequacy of the case against him. He remained their first-choice rider wherever possible, even though he could not ride in Britain after his licence here was contentiously suspended pending the trial. But their rather muted celebration of the judge's decision to throw out the case – a statement did not match their sympathy over Fallon's ordeal with any commitments as to his future – is now rather easier to understand.
Their principal trainer is Aidan O'Brien, who yesterday noted that Fallon had a history of addiction – quite apart from that first failed test, he has been treated for alcoholism – and that the most obvious inference from a positive test was a depressing one.
"The poor fellow had a problem before he came to us and, by the look of it, he still does now," O'Brien said. "Everyone has done everything they can, and I'm sure they will continue to support him now. Because it's the same for him as anyone else, it's help he needs. I talked to him after the court case, he was in fairyland at that time. But there's a long road ahead of him now."
Whatever his lawyers can achieve, Fallon must climb from an abyss even deeper than the one into which he was pushed by the serial misjudgements of his accusers. If things do go against him, there is a recent precedent of 18 months suspension for a second offence in France. Either way, his renewal as a rider will have to be matched by an equivalent process in his own nature. For if the trial did divulge one flaw in Fallon, it was his choice of friends. As one, much wiser ally lamented yesterday: "The trouble is that Kieren has never hit the ground. There have always been people to catch him. Perhaps he is one of those men who need to go through the pain, before they can stop themselves falling again."
Of course, even if sidelined for another 18 months, Fallon would still be 10 years younger than Lester Piggott – with whom he shares so many paradoxes of sporting genius – when he made his own return to the saddle. You can never tell how many lives Fallon has already used. But if it is not nine, then there can be little doubt now that it must be at least eight.