By: Shane Anderson
The career of Mark Riley could be over after Racing Victoria won its appeal against a decision to clear the trainer of doping at the state’s highest court on Wednesday.
The Mornington-based trainer had been cleared in October last year by the Victorian Supreme Court but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Riley was given a three-year disqualification by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board in January last year after his horse Gold For Kev returned an elevated total carbon-dioxide (TCO2) reading, known as ‘alkalinising agents’.
The results of a blood test had found the horse had a reading of 37.1 millimoles per litre of plasma, which exceeded the legal limit of 36.0 millimoles.
The analysis used to determine the reading was rounded up from 37.061 to 37.1 millimoles and an error margin of 1.0 was applied to reach the finding.
Riley appealed the matter to VCAT and then the Victorian Supreme Court, challenging the result as the rules of racing did not allow ’rounding up’ when testing for a prohibited substance.
Supreme Court Judge Justice Kevin Bell agreed with Riley’s submission and exonerated the trainer, with Racing Victoria subsequently filing an appeal.
And Court of Appeal judges Justice Chris Maxwell, Hartley Hansen and Robert Osborn disagreed with that decision and ruled in Racing Victoria’s favour.
“In our view, the clear intention of the Rules of Racing, by which Mr Riley agreed to be bound, was that the task of determining whether prohibited substances were present would be carried out by accredited laboratories … in accordance with the scientific methods and procedures appropriate to that task,” the summary judgment read regarding the findings.
“The Rules of Racing specified the permissible concentration of the relevant substances as ‘36.0’ mmol/L. The unchallenged expert evidence before the Tribunal was that when, as here, a prescribed concentration is expressed to one decimal place, rounding is the means by which an accredited laboratory expresses its measurement of concentration to one decimal place.”
Riley was also ordered to pay Racing Victoria’s costs.
“We acknowledge the Court of Appeal’s decision today which upheld an appeal by Racing Victoria against an earlier decision of the Supreme Court,” said Racing Victoria spokesperson Shaun Kelly in a statement.
“The Court of Appeal found that the analytical processes of the official racing laboratories were valid and confirmed the earlier findings of the RAD Board and VCAT that a prohibited substance was detected in the relevant sample taken from Gold For Kev, trained by Mark Riley.
“As a result, the administration charge under AR 175(h)(i) against Mr Riley is also confirmed, and Mr Riley is disqualified for a period of three years.”
Riley’s period of disqualification takes effect on October 1, 2016 with the trainer having 10 days to get his affairs in order. He cannot race horses within that period.