By: Brad Bishop

Terry and Karina O’Sullivan are set to spend more than 12 months on the sidelines after being disqualified by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on Thursday.

The Stawell-based father-and-daughter training team were outed until December 31 next year in relation to elevated cobalt readings returned by two of their horses in 2015 and 2016.

The RAD Board found the O’Sullivans not guilty of three charges under AR 175 (h)(i) – administration with the purpose of affecting performance, which carries a mandatory three-year disqualification period – but guilty of administration above the permitted threshold under AR 175 (h)(ii).

Terry O’Sullivan expressed his disappointment at the result and will consult with his legal representative Dennis Connell about the prospect of appeal.

“It’s very, very disappointing, (I’m) really disappointed to be disqualified over something – we’re certain we didn’t use any cobalt on horses – so naturally we’re very disappointed,” he said.

“We need to think about that (appealing), I’ll have to talk to Dennis about that, and it would certainly be one of the options. But I can’t say whether we will or we won’t.”

The charges stemmed from elevated cobalt readings returned by Darragh at Ballarat on November 21, 2015 and at Sandown on August 24 the following year and by Gold A Plenty at Sandown on August 7, 2016.

All readings were of at least 1200 micrograms per litre of urine, which was more than six times the permitted cobalt threshold level at the time.

RAD Board chairman, Judge John Bowman, said that the Board could not be satisfied the requirements of AR 175 (h)(i) have been satisfied to sustain the charge, hence the not guilty verdict on the main charges.

They were comfortable that the O’Sullivans had breached the alternative charges, however, which resulted in both parties offering penalty submissions.

Racing Victoria counsel Stephen Schmidhofer called for the O’Sullivans to be ‘disqualified for a minimum period of 18 months’ for breaches a rule he said ‘strikes at the heart of the integrity of racing’.

Connell called for a monetary sanction, pointing out that Terry, 69, and Karina, 40, were down to 25 horses from a team of 40 from when the charges were announced, something he said was ‘a direct result of this case’.

But Judge Bowman disagreed, stating that disqualification was appropriate.

“These are serious charges and we’re here to emphasise the potential damage it could have upon the industry and its reputation,” Judge Bowman said.

“These are three offences spread over 10 months, it’s not a one-off incident. These are very high readings.

“We know that this matter has been hanging over the heads of the O’Sullivans for quite some time but, as stated, these are very serious matters and in our view a period of disqualification is warranted.”

Judge Bowman announced that both Terry and Karina O’Sullivan were disqualified until December 31, 2019 on each of the three charges under AR 175(h)(ii), with the penalties to be served concurrently, meaning they are free to resume training again on January 1, 2020.

The disqualification starts from the day of the hearing, with the O’Sullivans granted seven days to make alternate arrangements for the horses in their care.