By: Andrew Eddy
Racing Victoria’s chief vet Dr Brian Stewart told VCAT on Wednesday that he knew the Chemcentre laboratory in Western Australia was not fully accredited to test for cobalt when Victorian samples were sent there for analysis in 2014.
Dr Stewart said that while he knew no laboratory had an approved method to test for cobalt in equine urine, he was happy to proceed anyway.
“I was satisfied testing human urine and equine urine were similar,” he told VCAT president Justice Greg Garde.
“It is better to have a specific test for species but this testing of urine is a straight-forward matter.”
Dr Stewart said he took that stance after advice from Victoria’s racing laboratory Racing Analytical Services Limited that the difference in accreditation for equine and human urine was ‘acceptable’.
Counsel for the trainers Damian Sheales had earlier grilled chief steward Terry Bailey and he also put Dr Stewart under the grill over the introduction of the cobalt laws in Victoria and the failure to follow the Australian Rules of Racing during the testing process.
Sheales said he was trying to prove to the hearing that several senior Racing Victoria figures had undertaken a ‘gross breach of their contractual obligations to licensed people’ by ignoring procedural laws.
Both heads of veterinary and integrity were excused from giving evidence at the original cobalt hearing for the trainers by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board, despite pleas by Sheales, who noted after Dr Stewart was sworn in on Wednesdy: ‘I’ve waited a long time’.
Although Racing Australia did not introduce national cobalt rules until January 2015, Bailey told the appeal on Wednesday morning that Racing Victoria decided to formulate cobalt rules earlier in 2014 so as to protect the Spring Carnival.
“It was to have a rule in place and be testing for it,” Bailey said.
Sheales and Bailey clashed several times in the morning session over why there were delays in cobalt samples returning from Chemcentre, with Sheales accusing Bailey of failing to tell the truth about his knowledge of the testing procedure.
Bailey recalled the occasion when he believed that cobalt was to become a problem in Australian racing. He said he had major concerns the drug was being abused when his Compliance Assurance Team intercepted a bottle of cobalt chloride, which was on its way to a vet.
But the bottle was sent to the wrong address and was then handed in to the CAT.
“Once we got hold of that, we had a problem,” Bailey said. “It was on its way to a vet and no doubt, I would assume, he would be using it.”
Dr Stewart will re-take the stand when the hearing resumes at 10am on Thursday.