Further Doubt Cast on Cobalt Case at VCAT: Racing.Com 8/10/16

By: Andrew Eddy

Former high-ranking Victorian steward Kane Ashby added to the doubts concerning the cobalt testing process in the Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh appeal on Wednesday when he agreed that the rules of racing were not followed in their ‘entirety’ during the testing process.

Ashby, who now works for Queensland Racing, agreed to the proposition put to him by the trainers’ counsel Damian Sheales that Australian Racing Rule 178D was not strictly followed when testing the trainers’ horses for cobalt in that the samples were not tested for the substance at the first instance by Racing Analytical Services Limited.

Under the rule, testing for cobalt should be done at first instance, and Ashby agreed with Sheales in that it was instead decided that RASL would test for all other substances and then the split sample would be sent to Chemcentre in Perth, as it had the facility to test for cobalt.

Ashby, the former head of the Compliance Assurance Team with Racing Victoria, said it was decided in a meeting with high-ranking integrity and veterinary officials in mid-2014 that instead of all cobalt samples being sent to Chemcentre, RASL would first gain the samples.

Ashby said he argued against such a move as sending the samples to Chemcentre directly made for a more ‘systematic process’.

Sheales alleged to the tribunal that RASL chief Dr David Batty, who is listed as a witness in the current proceedings, was fearful of losing business as by 2014, Racing Victoria had made a decision to cobalt-test all metropolitan winners by that stage and all those samples would be sent directly to Chemcentre for full testing.

Earlier, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s chief racing chemist Dr Terence Wan told Justice Greg Garde his racing laboratory had informed RASL its method for testing for cobalt was not accredited in 2014, but was asked to conduct tests anyway.

Wan confirmed that he e-mailed Batty telling him that Hong Kong’s method of testing for cobalt was not accredited by the national body after it was asked if his laboratory could do a confirmatory test on a B-sample of urine for cobalt.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told that it was not until June of 2015 that the Hong Kong method of testing had received accreditation despite Wan claiming the laboratory had long had the capacity and capability to do so.

Wan said Hong Kong was not fully accredited at the time because, as cobalt was a naturally-occurring substance in the body, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities had not yet established a threshold and therefore had not factored in a measurement of uncertainty.

Justice Garde also heard the original samples tested in 2014 were re-tested once Hong Kong’s accreditation was confirmed last year and that the results were similar.

Wan took the stand shortly before the luncheon adjournment on Day 8 of the cobalt appeals following a marathon stint over three days in the witness stand by Kavanagh’s estranged son, banned Sydney trainer Sam Kavanagh.

On Tuesday, Kavanagh claimed that a number of trainers in Queensland had been using the vitamin complex mix sourced by disgraced vet Dr Adam Matthews and on Wednesday he threw the net a little further when he claimed cobalt was also being used in South Australia with great effect.

He said a vet in Adelaide was selling a concoction that contained cobalt.

“They (Adelaide horses) were coming over to Victoria and going better than they were in Adelaide,” Kavanagh said.

“They were just going crazy.”

Ashby remains in the witness box and his evidence will be further examined when the appeal resumes for the final day of the current sitting at 10am on Thursday.