By: Shane Anderson
Racing Victoria (RV) has dismissed claims made during the Sam Kavanagh cobalt inquiry that a Melbourne Cup winner tested positive to cobalt and EPO as ‘lacking substance’.
During a tense hearing in front of Racing NSW Stewards on Wednesday, harness racing identity John Camilleri answered questions about a text message he had sent in which he said: “I know a horse that won a Melbourne Cup on cobalt and EPO.”
Camilleri claimed during the hearing that he had embellished with the message, saying that he was ‘big noting’ and in fact had no knowledge of the claims and knew nothing about cobalt.
However, Camilleri’s comments have been seized upon by the media, with concerns raised about the integrity of Australia’s biggest race.
But RV Chief Steward Terry Bailey has dismissed Camilleri’s comments.
“RV has worked closely with Racing New South Wales during the course of our parallel investigations into elevated cobalt levels and is not aware of any evidence to substantiate any claim that a Melbourne Cup winner was assisted by EPO and elevated cobalt levels,” said Bailey.
“We are of the view that the text message sent by John Camilleri lacks substance, which Mr Camilleri himself admitted during the course of the yesterday’s hearing before Racing New South Wales Stewards.
“RV was the first thoroughbred racing jurisdiction to commence testing for EPO in 2009, with the only positives detected being two horses in mid-2009 for which the trainer ultimately served a three-year period of disqualification.
“The past six Melbourne Cup winners, commencing with Shocking in 2009, have been all subjected to EPO testing in the lead-up to and/or immediately after their Cup victories and none have returned a positive swab.
“Furthermore, RV was the first thoroughbred racing jurisdiction to introduce a threshold rule for cobalt in April 2014 and the only Melbourne Cup winner since the rule was introduced, Protectionist, returned a clear sample.
“RV invests significant resources into our drug testing regime and utilises world-leading laboratories to ensure that horses are presented to race free of any prohibited substances with our primary goal to ensure that all horses compete on a level playing field.”
RV has released the testing regime for horses that contested the 2014 Melbourne Cup.
Each starter in the 2014 Emirates Melbourne Cup was subjected to out-of-competition testing at least once prior to raceday. There were no positives.
Further, nine of the 22 starters in the 2014 Melbourne Cup were swabbed at Flemington on the day of the meeting, including the first three placegetters and the ill-fated Admire Rakti. There were no positives.
All of the Melbourne Cup runners were under security for 24 hours prior to the race and each guard travelled to the racecourse with their assigned horse.
At this time RV has no intention of re-testing samples frozen before April 2014, when the cobalt threshold was introduced, as there was no rule in place to define a permitted threshold.
“Our priority is prosecuting the cases that are on foot for elevated levels of cobalt detected after the threshold was introduced,” said Bailey.
Bailey has left open whether the text message sent by Camilleri will be investigated further.
“We are seeking further information from Racing New South Wales Stewards to determine our course of action,” said Bailey.