FORMER Newcastle and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra claims he can't afford the £50,000 legal fees to defend himself against allegations of race fixing.

The Ipswich Town striker, who admits to a gambling problem, revealed he would not be attending the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) due to start on Monday.

Chopra is among three footballers facing conspiracy charges in a case centred around former UK-based flat jockey Andrew Heffernan.

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Middlesbrough-born James Coppinger, 31, who previously played for Newcastle and Darlington, was also charged by the BHA, alongside England under-21 international Mark Wilson and stable hand Kelly Inglis, who previously worked at several stables in the Darlington and Barnard Castle area.

In a statement released on his club's website, Chopra, 29, said: "I have extensive debts and loans and simply cannot afford the amount of money necessary to clear my name."

The former England Under-21 international said he had been advised that even if found innocent, his legal costs would not be refunded by racing's governing body.

Chopra said that not being licensed by the BHA, he was not subject to its rules, and that the only punishment that could be imposed on him would be a ban from racecourses and premises it licenses.

He said: "It is well publicised that I have a gambling addiction problem and I see any such sanctions as being a useful mechanism in helping me to address these problems.

"As of this year, I've voluntarily excluded myself from all betting institutions from where I live in Ipswich in order to help me fight this illness."

Doncaster midfielder Coppinger has already said he would fight the allegations to clear his name.