Jenny - Clean

WEDNESDAY'S show-cause hearings at Racing Victoria's headquarters in Flemington will see five trainers and a gaggle of lawyers in the spotlight.

PATRICK BARTLEY repots in THE AGE that the Lee and Shannon Hope, Danny O'Brien, Mark Kavanagh and Peter Moody have been asked to show cause why they should be allowed to continue to train until their cobalt positive cases are heard.

All have been charged with multiple counts of administration of cobalt. There has been outcry from sections of the media - "the trainers' cheer squad" - asking: Why now? What has changed? They argue that these trainers should be able to continue to train until charges are proven and that many staff and owners would be affected as a result.

Perhaps it's telling that not one of these scribes mentioned the image of racing, which has been significantly damaged by the cobalt positives. The damage is not just in the positives but to the standing of those who have been caught in the net - big, big names who have collectively won just about every major race in Australia.
The media have pressed Racing Victoria's head of integrity Dayle Brown, who six weeks earlier had said the trainers would not be stood down.

On Tuesday, Brown said more evidence had been gathered since his earlier statement, including analytical evidence and evidence from vet Tom Brennan that he sold "vitamin bottles" to both O'Brien and Kavanagh for thousands of dollars.
Chief stipe Terry Bailey was also pressed and he replied that a key part of the steward's role is to protect the integrity of the sport and that the cobalt cases were a matter of great public interest.

With the spring not far away, perhaps this is the key and, in this context, it's worth remembering how the AFL handled the Essendon doping scandal before the ASADA investigation was complete.

The AFL was massively concerned about potential damage to the image of football and penalised the club and senior coach James Hird for governance breaches and for bringing the game into disrepute.

Essendon was fined $2 million and excluded from the draft, Hird was suspended for 12 months and, tellingly, despite finishing in the top eight the club was not permitted to compete in the finals that year.

Effectively, the AFL said the image and integrity of football would have been damaged further if Essendon had played finals. And all of that was before the ASADA investigation into Essendon's doping was complete.

While the intricacies of the cobalt cases are unlikely to play a part in the show-cause hearing on Wednesday, the passage of time is not helping the five trainers involved.

In Queensland earlier this week, Racing Queensland disqualified trainer Jay McConachy for 18 months for elevated cobalt in his horse Vandalised, which raced in June 2014. Vandalised returned cobalt elevations of 280 and 293 micrograms per litre of urine, above the permitted 200mcg/l but well below most of the readings returned by the Hopes, Moody, O'Brien and Kavanagh.

However, most interesting was that the steward did not accept McConachy's expert's opinion of so-called "bio-accumulation". The concept was rejected and McConachy suspended for 18 months.

Bio-accumulation is a theory relating to the build-up of cobalt in the body over time, however many experts believe it is irrelevant when discussing urine cobalt levels.Last week the judge presiding over Darren Smith's cobalt appeals in NSW released a written 46-page document explaining his reasons for dismissing Smith's appeal against a 15-year disqualification.

Perhaps most telling for those trainers fighting cobalt positives in Victoria were the judge's comments that a horse would not have returned a cobalt level of even 35mg/L through legitimate supplements and that anything over 100mg/L could be considered excessive.

The judge was critical of Smith, saying that there were significant animal husbandry issues associated with giving cobalt from an unlabelled bottle.

Finally, the judge said that the purpose of the rules was to maintain the integrity of racing and the welfare of the horse. The RSPCA is closely monitoring these cobalt cases.

Whatever the outcome of Wednesday's hearing, let's hope that for the good of the industry, these cases are resolved faster than Essendon's supplements saga which is now heading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport later this year.

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