Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), admits that Bryony Frost’s confidence in them has collapsed after Robbie Dunne’s seven-month bullying and harassment campaign.
Dunne was banned from racing for 18 months, with a three-month suspension, after being found guilty of bullying and harassment in Frost between February 13, 2020 and September 3, 2020.
In October, the PJA asked the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to close the case, arguing that a fair hearing would be “impossible” after the details of the report were leaked to a newspaper.
Speaking on the racing debate, Struthers said Sky Sport Racing that he had yet to contact Frost, but that PJA board member Mick Fitzgerald had been in contact after Thursday’s verdict.
“I haven’t been in contact with Bryony but I will be,” he said. “We have to reach.
“I think there has been a break in trust, from Bryony to us, and we need to understand why, what we can do better and accept where we went wrong.”
In providing their findings, the BHA’s independent disciplinary panel stated that any weighing culture that allows jockeys to threaten serious injury to another or their horse, to call another aw *** and, as ** te as ** g is “sour and rancid”.
The PJA statement issued following that verdict criticized both the BHA investigation and the panel, expressing sympathy that Frost “felt” bullied – a statement Struthers has since acknowledged could have been worded in a way different.
“I accept that our statement was not as conciliatory as it could have been, but we were dealing with a situation that was inflamed by those words,” Struthers said.
“You have to understand the damage caused by the ‘rancid and sour’ wording.
“There is no question that things need to change. We defend the weighing room and it is not perfect, but it is not even as represented and even the BHA recognizes that.
“There is no doubt which language used [by Dunne] it was definitely inappropriate.
“Bryony has been through a terrible time and has shown tremendous courage.
“There are a lot of things to learn and I apologize, especially to Bryony, if we made things worse.”
“The self-control of the weighing room is ridiculous and unfair”
Journalist Kevin Blake believes too much attention was paid to the wording of the BHA in the aftermath of the case, rather than what might have allowed Dunne’s behavior to go on for so long.
Blake believes that the weigh room’s acceptance of “self-control” is an unfair system and indicates a “failure of officialdom.”
“It’s frustrating to hear some misdirection from this case and focus on the words,” Blake told Racing Debate. “You have to break all this down into its fundamental parts. Why did this case happen?
“If we are to believe the evidence provided by Robbie Dunne, it all arose out of concerns about driving Bryony Frost and his opinion that it was not properly handled by stewards. If we are led to believe the evidence then other jockeys also had concerns. .
“You have a situation where, in the opinion of some jockeys, interference handling was not being handled properly. In Robbie’s case, he felt he had to take care of himself.
“This notion of self-control seems to be widely accepted in the weighing room. It is absolutely ridiculous in 2021.
“A self-control system just doesn’t work and completely favors older jockeys and strong personalities. It’s fundamentally unfair.
“In Robbie Dunne’s case, where were the other people in the weight room when he dealt so badly with this?
“The weighing room is full of officials, so how do we get to the point where the jockeys might abuse each other? This is a failure of the official and a failure of the steward.”