Trainers cleared of cobalt charges after Racing Victoria appeal fails
Trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh will face no renewed charges for administration of cobalt to runners in their care, but could still be sanctioned for presenting horses at the races with elevated levels of the performance-enhancing substance.
Racing Victoria had appealed against the decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to overturn bans of four years and three years respectively for the two trainers for the administration of cobalt, which in large doses has a similar effect to erythropoietin (EPO) in humans.
However, the court of appeal judges agreed with the VCAT decision that the trainers had “no knowledge of the administration of any prohibited substance to any of their horses”.
O’Brien said: “This is a win, it has always been about administration and once again we have been found to be completely innocent of administration.”
The long-running saga still has another stage to go through, with O’Brien and Kavanagh back in front of the VCAT, which will determine a penalty for the charge of presenting horses at the races with elevated cobalt levels.
In a statement, Giles Thompson, chief executive of Racing Victoria, said: “Throughout this issue, our fundamental concern has been to take appropriate steps to protect the integrity of Victorian thoroughbred racing and to protect the welfare of horses. Where the rules of racing are breached, it is our job to take the appropriate action to enforce the rules.
“This decision reinforces that the action taken by Racing Victoria's integrity services team was the right and appropriate action when tests showed excessive levels of cobalt in horses.”
He added: “While it is now up to VCAT to determine penalties, we welcome the decision of the court of appeal as an important endorsement of the actions of our integrity services team.”
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