By: David Baxter
Australia: The long-running cobalt saga took another twist on Thursday, when the chief veterinarian for Racing Victoria admitted the governing body should have issued warnings that standard doses of vitamin and mineral products containing cobalt could push horses’ levels above the permitted threshold.
Dr Brian Stewart was speaking at the appeal hearing for Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien, who have been handed three and four-year bans respectively after horses in their care returned elevated cobalt readings in 2014.
Cobalt can help increase red blood cells to help take oxygen through the body, therefore enabling a horse to perform at its peak for longer. However Kavanagh and O’Brien deny deliberately administering cobalt to their horses.
Peter Moody, the trainer of superstar mare Black Caviar, decided to walk away from the sport earlier this year after what he felt was unfair treatment during his cobalt case. Moody was found not guilty of intentionally giving one of his horses cobalt, though he was banned for six months for the lesser charge of unintentional administration.
‘Please report facts’
He was quick to tweet his thoughts regarding Stewart’s answers, putting above an article that outlined the veterinarian’s thoughts on how Racing Victoria should have made trainers aware of how cobalt levels could rise: “Bit late for some.”
Moody also took the opportunity to call out those in the media who had commented on his case, adding in another tweet: “Where are all [the] grub journalists who turned on me hiding. Please report facts.”
At the appeal hearing, when questioned whether warnings should have been issued to trainers, Stewart said: “With hindsight, yes.”
However Stewart maintained cobalt could be considered a doping agent as it “has the very significant potential to enhance performance”.
Earlier this week at the hearing Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey conceded that the cobalt tests undertaken by laboratories were “not followed to the letter”, with urine samples for testing split between facilities, something that does not adhere to the regulatory body’s rules.
The hearing continues.