Former trainer Robin Bastiman admits lying after positive test for cobalt
Former trainer Robin Bastiman admitted lying to the disciplinary panel at a BHA hearing on Friday, at which he and his daughter Rebecca Bastiman, whom he now assists, were required to defend themselves against a positive test for cobalt.
The charges followed a positive finding in a retrospective urine test taken from John Caesar after his win at Wolverhampton on April 8, 2016.
Towards the end of six hours of evidence, Robin Bastiman, who reckons to have been "in racing for 50 years" and is best known for his handling of dual Nunthorpe winner Borderlescott, admitted: "I did lie, but I was a bit confused. I probably did do it on this occasion [inject a prohibited substance on raceday], but I can't be sure.
"I just saw [vitamin] B12 and Hemo 15 [the supplement from which the evidence suggests was 'the most plausible source' of the cobalt] as a tonic for a finicky eater. I was aghast to hear it contained cobalt."
Bastiman, whose lack of legal representation and confused evidence became a major concern both to BHA prosecutor Tim Naylor and panel chairman David Fish, said injecting B12 was "the habit of a lifetime" in racing but insisted he saw it only as "a tonic".
He admitted he was well aware his daughter, who took over the licence on February 1, 2015, was against all injections and he accepted he had promised not to inject after making an agreement with her on the matter in either January or February 2016.
He said he could not be sure whether he had kept to that agreement, but insisted if he had injected, it was without his daughter's knowledge.
The urine test taken from John Caesar was found, under the BHA's retrospective testing procedure a year or so later, to contain cobalt at a level of 362 nanograms per millilitre, more than three times the threshold level of 100 nanograms that the BHA had introduced for cobalt just six days before the race following growing concerns worldwide about its use for performance enhancement.
The initial sample, tested shortly after the race, had not provided a positive test because at that time the BHA did not have a validated test available to them.
The source of such a level of cobalt, which is present normally at a much lower level in all animals, but which at that level, administered probably on raceday, might have performance enhancing properties, was said almost certainly to have been Hemo 15, which is not licensed but can be prescribed for horses returning from long-term illness as a general tonic to improve red blood cell level.
It was Hemo 15 that was found to have been injected by County Armagh trainer Stephen McConville and his son Michael, owner and intended rider of Anseanachai Cliste at Cheltenham in March 2017, in what was the only previous cobalt case heard in Britain.
Both were disqualified for three years, having admitted to injecting Anseanachai Cliste with a tonic that included cobalt, although they claimed they were unaware the injections were potentially performance-enhancing.
She added there had been many things she wanted to change when she took over the operation that was still run very much as a family affair, with her brother Harvey also an assistant and largely responsible for feeding, but said she found her father stuck in his ways.
A battle over turning horses out after exercise was won after several weeks, and she said she thought she had also won the battle over her father regularly injecting horses. She insisted she had no idea he continued the practice.
Much of the evidence revolved around when various supplements were ordered, either from the stable's local veterinary practice or on the internet, and for what purpose.
While her father was responsible for all supplements, which he kept under lock and key, it emerged it was Rebecca Bastiman who had placed the order for Hemo 15, simply, she said, because her father did not have an email address.
She insisted she did not know it contained additional cobalt besides that present in all vitamin B12, and said she knew nothing of it having performance-enhancing potential if given in sufficient quantities, by means of improving red blood cell levels.
The inquiry will reconvene on Tuesday to hear closing arguments and submissions, before discussion of appropriate penalties.
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