The drug scandal Australian racing had to have   Leave a comment

The drug scandal Australian racing had to have

July 26, 2015 – 7:36PM
Under scrutiny: Trainer Danny O'Brien is caught up in the cobalt scandal.Under scrutiny: Trainer Danny O’Brien is caught up in the cobalt scandal. Photo: Getty Images

Last Friday, the Victorian racing community was stunned when stewards issued show-cause notices to the five Victorian trainers facing cobalt charges.

The notices, to be heard on Wednesday, require these five trainers to demonstrate why they should be allowed to continue training until their cases are heard by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

While there has been an immediate outcry that the trainers could be stood down before their charges have been heard, it would not be the first time this has happened.

In NSW and Western Australia, trainers Darren Smith, Sharron Taylor and Sam Kavanagh were immediately stood down from training after their horses returned cobalt positives. Subsequently, Taylor was disqualified for two years, Darren Smith for 15 years, with his appeal dismissed just last week, and Sam Kavanagh’s inquiry resumes on Monday.

But in a variation on Paul Keating’s famous line about the recession Australia had to have, this is the drug scandal Australian racing had to have.

The industry is clearly in crisis and the cobalt saga has exposed endemic cheating across the country.There are cobalt positive swabs across every Australian state involving all three racing codes: thoroughbreds, standardbreds and greyhounds.

The number of trainers involved is now approaching 30 but even more damning is the recent revelation about the involvement of veterinarians and senior racing officials.

As sad as it is to see such a scourge on the industry, this has presented a real opportunity to make changes and clean up the industry. A former senior police investigator, who previously worked to stamp out corruption, told Fairfax Media: “The only way to clean up corruption was to fully expose the underbelly.”

A few in the press ranks and some racing officials have publicly questioned the show-cause notices, arguing that they were issued to prevent the hearings from colliding with Melbourne’s spring racing carnival. They should not undermine Racing Victoria’s integrity department with such frivolous suggestions, as the show-cause notices relate to the image and integrity of racing.

Cobalt is a necessary trace element but if present in excess is a banned drug. At high levels, it is a poison that can cause death from heart failure. The science of cobalt is also clear – Australia’s 200 micrograms per litre threshold cannot be exceeded unless the rules are breached. Oral supplements are poorly absorbed and not a factor. Normal intravenous supplements produce high readings for only a couple of hours.

This means the only way a horse gets over the threshold is if the animal has been treated on race day or given a massive cobalt dose before race day. Whichever way you look at it, this is cheating with a banned drug.

Let us not forget that the levels involved here range from 290 mcg/L to 670 mcg/L, massive elevations over Australia’s threshold of 200, which is twice the international threshold.

All five trainers face the charge of presentation – that is, bringing a horse to the races with a prohibited substance in it.

Peter Moody has publicly said he would accept the presentation charge as it is almost indefensible. Many believe if the presentation charges are included in the show-cause proceedings, allowing the trainers with a confirmed cobalt positive to keep training is prejudicial to racing’s already tarnished image.

The former police investigator also said that for integrity officers to clean up endemic corruption, they needed full support from officials and government. It is telling that in the current cobalt investigation there has been widespread co-operation and sharing of intelligence between Racing NSW and Racing Victoria integrity stewards. Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula has been kept informed of RV’s investigation as has racing’s integrity commissioner Sal Perno, and both are believed to be happy with the progress of RV’s integrity department headed by Terry Bailey.

Fairfax Media spoke to RV chairman David Moodie, who expressed full support and confidence in the department.

Perhaps Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons could follow Moodie’s lead. Symons was quoted on Saturday as saying he was stunned by the stewards’ show-cause notices. “How can the stewards shut up shop and not explain why they have delivered these notices?” he said.

MRC is the second biggest racing club in Victoria, a position of power that should not be used to influence integrity matters. Symons, like Moodie, needs to demonstrate full support for RV, Bailey and his team as they are doing their best to expose and clean up the cobalt mess.

If anyone really wants to understand what has been happening with cobalt in racing then they need to follow the NSW inquiry involving Sam Kavanagh.

Kavanagh, a young man hoping to salvage a training career at some time in the future, made many frank and honest admissions about illegal practices in his stable. Without those admissions the bi-state investigation would not be where it is today.

However, the admissions were sufficiently damning that NSW stewards hit Kavanagh with another 16 charges.

Kavanagh’s evidence has clearly rattled some Victorian trainers, with Damien Sheales, lawyer for Sam’s father, Mark Kavanagh, and Danny O’Brien, labelling Sam Kavanagh “an admitted liar”.

As we approach Wednesday’s show-cause hearing, with others possibly changing evidence already given to stewards, there may well be more than one admitted liar in the cobalt affair.

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Posted July 27, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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