Milkshaking scandal: trainer Robert Smerdon disqualified for life
Trainer Robert Smerdon has been disqualified for life by the racing appeals and disciplinary board for his involvement in the milkshaking scandal that has rocked racing in Australia.
Smerdon was said to be "the major driving force behind the scheme" as the penalties for the Aquanita Inquiry were presented at Melbourne's County Court on Thursday.
A financial penalty may also be forthcoming for Smerdon, with Judge John Bowman rueing the "sad" state of affairs when issuing the punishments, with stable employees Greg and Denise Nelligan also disqualified for life.
Licensed trainers Stuart Webb (four years), Tony Vasil (three years), Trent Pennuto (two years) and Liam Birchley (one year) were also handed hefty disqualification periods, while stable employee Daniel Garland was banned for a year for his involvement.
The charges alleged systematic malpractice involving trainers employed by Aquanita, one of the country’s largest operations with five trainers spread over three locations.
The Aquanita eight were all found guilty earlier in the week over the illegal raceday treatments, largely because of 1,000 messages about "top-ups" among the 70,000 texts downloaded from box driver Greg Nelligan's mobile phone after he was "caught red-handed" last October.
Bowman had previously described the case as “one of the darkest and longest chapters in the history of Australian turf racing".
What is milkshaking?
'Milkshaking', once the scourge of US racing, is the colloquial term for the administration of sodium bicarbonate (also known as TCO2) shortly before a race in a bid to gain an edge.
Designed to reduce the build-up of lactic acid thereby reducing fatigue, it usually involves a mixture of baking soda, sugar and water being inserted via the nostril.
Giles Thompson, chief executive of Racing Victoria, said: “We respect the decision of the independent RAD board and look forward to reading their reasons for decision.
“It’s imperative that we send the strongest possible message to the small minority who think they can undermine the integrity of our sport.
“If people choose to try and brazenly cheat the system to gain an unfair advantage over all of the hard-working and committed participants who abide by the rules of racing, then we don’t want them to have a place in our sport.
“Our participants, customers and the wider public expect Victorian racing to uphold the highest levels of integrity and we will continue to ensure that the very small minority who seek to breach the rules of racing are found, investigated and ultimately prosecuted.”
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