By: Shane Anderson

Trainers Lee and Shannon Hope will argue that the laboratories employed by Racing Victoria to test for cobalt were not properly accredited when their appeals are heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) on August 1.

In an explosive directions hearing in front of Judge Pamela Jenkins at VCAT on Friday, the Hopes’ legal counsel Tim Purdey challenged that the scope of the accreditation was at issue as that is what determines whether a laboratory is accredited to perform a certain test.

The Hopes believe the Perth-based ChemCentre and the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) laboratories were not accredited to test for cobalt at the time that RV stewards were investigating the positive results that were returned by horses from their stables.

Purdey argued that while the ChemCentre and HKJC facilities are listed as official racing laboratories under the Australian Rules of Racing, neither were accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities or another relevant body to test for cobalt at the time of the investigations.

RV legal counsel Albert Dinelli disagreed with this position, arguing that both facilities are official racing laboratories and that RV acted appropriately throughout the testing process.

He said that the only issue was the methods that were applied and further raised the prospect of retesting samples.

Purdey responded that the retesting of the samples would be the subject of legal argument.

Dinelli also argued that comments made by Paul Matters, a former lay advocate for the Hopes, on radio station RSN927 on Friday morning were unfortunate.

In the interview, Matters suggested there was a ‘bombshell’ around the HKJC admitting that they were not accredited at the time of testing.

Matters stated that the Hopes would produce that documentation during the VCAT appeal.

Judge Jenkins had previously refused to grant leave for Matters to represent the Hopes in their appeal on April 4.

Judge Jenkins questioned Matters, flagging her intention to open an investigation as to whether his comments were in contempt of the tribunal.

Matters argued that he was entitled to make comments as a private citizen and that he was not representing the Hopes.

Matters is a warned-off person by Harness Racing NSW after previously failing to appear at an inquiry.

It is likely that Supreme Court Justice Greg Garde AO RFD, President of VCAT, will hear the appeals of the Hopes, along with trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh, on August 1.

Damian Sheales, legal counsel for O’Brien and Kavanagh, will also represent the Hopes in their appeal.

Lee and Shannon Hope were disqualified by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board for three and five years respectively.

O’Brien was disqualified for four years and Kavanagh for three years for similar breaches of the cobalt threshold.

“We do not intend to discuss nor debate the merits of the stewards’ case outside of the tribunal process,” Racing Victoria said in a statement.

“The cobalt appeals have been scheduled before VCAT on 1 August and thus we won’t be commenting any further at this time.”