John Leek Escapes Cobalt Charges:Racing.Com 3/18/16

By: Racing.com staff

Racing Victoria Stewards will not charge trainer John Leek despite his galloper Spirit Cent returning a urine sample above the legal cobalt threshold last July.

According to stewards, ‘a thorough investigation and consideration of veterinary and legal advice’ led them to decide against taking any action against Leek or Spirit Cent because ‘the reserve sample was under the permitted threshold when the base measurement of uncertainty was applied’.

RV stewards revealed in October that Leek (Spirit Cent) and fellow trainer Len Xuereb (Elegantly Wasted) had both been informed that horses in their care had returned samples with elevated levels of cobalt in early July last year.

According to Racing Analytical Services Limited’s (RASL) testing Spirit Cent returned a reading of 228 micrograms per litre in urine after winning the Global Barrier Systems BM64 Handicap (1200m) at Racing.com Park on 3 July, 2015.

This was registered as a base measurement of 203 micrograms per litre in urine – due to a 25-microgram-per-litre measurement of uncertainty – which is above the legal threshold of 200 micrograms per litre of urine under the Rules of Racing.

But Racing Chemistry Laboratory (RCL) reported a reading of 210 micrograms per litre in urine in the reserve portion of the sample, with a 20-microgram-per-litre measurement of uncertainty registering the reading as 190 micrograms per litre of urine.

RV noted that while in previous cases involving the prohibited TCO2 – a dissolved gas in blood – the alkalinizing agent ‘gradually escapes the blood sample into the air within the test tube’ with each day, the same isn’t the case with cobalt.

So while in TCO2 cases a lower level in the reserve sample is possible because of the passing of time, cobalt is ‘a heavy metal that does not alter in urine and thus the levels contained within samples will be unchanged over an extended period’.

“Furthermore, RV Stewards noted that the difference in cobalt readings for Spirit Cent between the two laboratories is not due to deterioration of the concentrate of the substance in the sample as occurs with TCO2, it is due to differences in the testing environment which is why measurements of uncertainty are in place,” said RV Stewards’ statement.

“In the absence of scientific evidence supporting the detection of cobalt in Spirit Cent’s reserve sample at a prohibited level, the RV Stewards ultimately determined that it was not reasonably open to exercise their discretion to pursue charges in this instance.

“Accordingly, Mr Leek has been advised today (Friday) that no charges will be laid.”

RV Stewards are yet to advise whether charges will be laid against Xuereb and Elegantly Wasted after the latter returned levels of 251 micrograms per litre of urine (base measurement of 226) in its RASL sample and 240 micrograms per litre of urine (base measurement of 220) in its RCL sample after it won the Eastcoast Plumbtec Maiden Plate (1417m) at Sale Racecourse on 9 July, 2015.

The news regarding Leek comes a day after champion trainer Peter Moody received a 12-month suspension, six of which is suspended, after being found guilty of administering cobalt to Lidari, which tested positive following the 2014 Turnbull Stakes.