Betting on races is common among Australian jockeys and Damien Oliver has been made a scapegoat, WA racing identities said yesterday as the champion sportsman's career hung in the balance.
It came as Racing Victoria said more jockeys could be charged as part of a wider investigation after Oliver's admission that he bet $10,000 on a rival horse at Moonee Valley in 2010.
Friends and colleagues came out in support of the 40-year-old, who is facing suspension for using a mobile phone in the jockeys' room to place a bet on horse Miss Octopussy through a third party.
WA racing legend John "JJ" Miller, whose career spanned four decades, said jockeys had been gambling for years.
"It's accepted that jockeys have a bet and speaking from experience there was plenty of times you'd be told by the owners to get your own (money) if you weren't going to get anything from them," he said.
He compared Oliver's situation to that of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong because he believed in both cases the industry was aware of what was going on. He feared Oliver would be made a scapegoat.
"The same people who have condoned jockeys betting are now taking a holier than thou attitude and enforcing the rules when they haven't educated jockeys appropriately about this," he said.
WA race caller Darren McAullay, who has known Oliver for years, predicted he would be banned for between eight to 12 months.
"You'd be naive to suggest that jockeys have not had an investment in races - he's not the first to be charged," he said.
"He's transgressed the rules and that's the penalty he must pay but he hasn't defrauded the public and there's no suggestion there was any impropriety . . . he's just had a bet when he shouldn't have."
McAullay was confident Oliver would return to racing after serving any suspension.
"He's got plenty of riding in him, he's an iconic figure and he would want to leave on his terms," he said.
"He's one of the most respected and popular jockeys in the country and I can't possibly see that he would retire because of a suspension. His strength of character, his ability to overcome disappointment, injury and personal tragedy, would far outweigh any suspension."
WA Jockeys Association president Craig Staples said he hoped the charges would not spell the end of Oliver's career.
"It's an unfortunate thing, because he's probably one of the best jockeys to ride in Australia and I hope this doesn't tarnish his reputation," he said.
"I hope they think about his fundraising efforts, what he's done for jockey support groups and men's health and that type of thing."
He said the penalties for betting were well understood by jockeys.
Racing Victoria stewards will hear the charges against Oliver on Tuesday.with AAP
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