By: Lee Mottershead
Rebecca Bastiman will on Friday become the first British trainer to face charges of a positive cobalt test after the BHA’s retrospective testing system shone the spotlight on handicapper John Caesar following his success in a race at Wolverhampton two years ago.
Along with her father and former trainer Robin Bastiman, Rebecca Bastiman will appear before the BHA’s independent disciplinary panel on Friday, where both family members – most closely associated with former top sprinter Borderlescott – will be required to defend themselves against a number of charges.
The revelation that British racing has been hit by its second cobalt case does not come as a surprise after Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s directory of integrity and raceday operations, unexpectedly disclosed a story was about to break during a Racing UK interview in February.
While cobalt cases have not been uncommon internationally, the first hearing in Britain took place last autumn with County Armagh trainer Stephen McConville and his son Michael, owner and intended rider of Anseanachai Cliste, disqualified for three years.
They admitted to injecting Anseanachai Cliste with a tonic that included cobalt at Cheltenham last March, although they claimed they were unaware the injections were potentially performance-enhancing.
WHAT IS COBALT?
Cobalt is naturally present in horses but may have the potential to enhance performance when present at concentrations exceeding normal physiological parameters.
It is an essential trace dietary mineral required by all mammals, including horses, whose normal diet contains sufficient cobalt to meet requirements.
Inorganic cobalt salts have the potential to activate the erythropoietin (EPO) gene, which increases the production of red bloods cells.
EPO has been common to many doping scandals in athletics.
Dunshea previously disclosed a cobalt positive had been unearthed as part of the BHA’s retrospective testing programme and found in a batch of around 400 from 2016.
He said: “The overwhelming majority of samples that were retrospectively tested were negative, but there were some lines of inquiry we’re following up in relation to that. We do have one matter under investigation.”
That matter is now set to come before the disciplinary panel on Friday.
The panel will determine whether Rebecca Bastiman was in breach of the rules of racing by virtue of the fact John Caesar delivered a cobalt reading above the permitted level following the Wolverhampton contest on April 8, 2016.
Among the other issues to be examined, the Bastimans will face questions over the rule regarding the administration of a prohibited substance.