York Racecourse says it will fit new security measures to disabled toilets after an investigation allegedly found traces of cocaine inside.
After a national newspaper said it found evidence of the class A drug at the course, officials have reaffirmed their zero tolerance policy to people taking illegal substances.
But they have also pointed out that 40,000 racegoers enjoyed a safe and trouble-free three days at the Dante Festival last week, and questioned the investigators’ approach.
‘Three positive samples’
Journalists from the Daily Mail investigated drug taking at Newbury and York racecourses last week.
During a visit to the Dante Festival last Thursday (May 17) they reported that the meeting “passed off without major violence, thanks to increased security”.
But they said they found three positive samples for cocaine using special ‘cocaine swabs’ at the York course (there were 13 at Newbury). The article stated:
All were taken from the disabled toilets near the champagne lawn in the County Stand, the most expensive enclosure.
Elsewhere on the course, our samples showed no traces of cocaine.
Three hundred stewards
A spokesman for York Racecourse said they were made aware of the undercover investigation on Sunday.
“As the racecourse was not involved in the investigation, it cannot comment on the rigour and therefore the accuracy of the findings,” he said.
“York Racecourse has a zero tolerance policy on this matter, so is disappointed that the journalist chose not to report the matter to North Yorkshire Police (who were in attendance at the track), or to any of the 300-plus members of the stewarding team.
“The journalist did confirm that she had an enjoyable and safe day at York and that there were no instances of anti-social behaviour; this was true across all three days of the Dante Festival and so was hopefully the experience of the near 40,000 racegoers.”
York Racecourse has recently increased its measures to combat drug taking.
Sniffer dogs are deployed at the course, there is a large police presence, bags are searched and toilets are monitored.
New locks to be fitted
The spokesman said ‘policing’ toilet areas carried with it obvious sensitivities. But they would be making a change as a result of the article:
Taken at face value, the investigation reports no evidence of drug taking despite widespread testing, in either any of the main toilets nor any of the disabled toilets in the grandstand and paddock enclosure, where we understand approximately 20 swabs were taken.
The article chooses to focus on the findings in two of the disabled toilets within the County Stand area.
It is accepted that the obvious privacy expected in toilets makes them a hard area to supervise; this is particularly the case with disabled facilities where there is no public area.
On a balanced judgement between speed of access versus the potential for abuse, the racecourse had previously decided that these specific disabled toilets should not be operated only by a special key (known as a radar key). However given the zero tolerance policy, these locks will now be fitted to these toilets.
He pointed out that drug abuse is a problem for society as a whole. But their policy remained the same: “York Racecourse remains committed to offering an enjoyable and safe experience to all its customers and does not condone the choice of a few individuals to break the law.”
Racing returns to York this weekend with the First Saturday one-day meeting.