TOP trainer Peter Moody has signalled through his lawyer Matthew Stirling that he will fight the cobalt charges relating to his horse Lidari and challenge the science surrounding the use of cobalt.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Moody joins fellow trainers Danny O'Brien, Mark Kavanagh and Lee and Shannon Hope in fighting the cobalt science.

In a directions hearing two weeks ago, Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board chairman Judge Russell Lewis had offered Moody and his team two hearing options: a short hearing in the week of October 5 if he chose not to challenge the cobalt science, or a three-day hearing from December 14 if he and his experts wanted to challenge the science around cobalt. Moody rejected the short hearing.

Moody will be the last trainer to face cobalt charges. Charges involving the Hopes will be heard from October 16, and Kavanagh and O'Brien from November 30.

Moody has already said in the media that he would accept the lesser presentation charge but is adamant that he rejects any charge of administration.

All five Victorian trainers have been charged with both presentation and administration in relation to cobalt positives.

The presentation charge means that a horse is brought to the races and returns a positive drug test – but no fault or intent needs to be proved. In these circumstances, there may be contamination or a mistake; maybe the feeds were mixed up and the wrong horse was treated. 

Generally, this charge relates to therapeutic or common drugs, not drugs that affect performance and drugs that are not on the "banned list". For this reason penalties in these cases are usually fines.

The much more serious charge is one of "administration". In these circumstances, the stewards believe there was a deliberate treatment of the horse with the intent to affect the horse's performance in a race.

In the absence of exceptional circumstances, a guilty finding on an administration charge carries a minimum penalty of three years disqualification.   

In Victoria earlier this year, trainer Mark Riley was disqualified for three years after being found guilty by the RAD Board of administering an alkalising  agent (commonly called a milkshake) to his horse to affect race performance. Riley subsequently appealed, lost at VCAT, and is soon to hear his fate after a Supreme Court appeal.

Challenging the science around cobalt is the only option left to the Victorian trainers facing cobalt positives. However this might prove challenging as there have already been a number of cobalt cases heard in courts and inquiries around the country and many of the scientific arguments have already been put forward and rejected.

Indeed, there are those who believe that administration and presentation are inextricably linked and that the generous Australian threshold of 200 micrograms of cobalt per litre of urine can only be exceeded by race-day treatments or by excessive intravenous cobalt treatment preceding race day.

As cobalt is linked to possible blood doping, the trainers found guilty of cobalt positives have been dealt severe penalties.

Reid Sanders, the harness racing chief stipe who introduced cobalt thresholds to Australia, has caught and disqualified 10 trainers for periods up to 10 years.

In Sydney last week, NSW stewards disqualified trainer Sam Kavanagh and vet Tom Brennan for nine years and six years respectively over the cobalt doping of Kavanagh's horse Midsummer Sun.

Earlier this year, Newcastle trainer Darren Smith was banned for 15 years for 21 cobalt positives. Many of these horses were winners. 

Cobalt test results published from over 10,300 horses from 11 countries around the world, including horses on cobalt supplements, are blunt. A lowest reading relating to the natural occurrence of cobalt of 0.1mcg/L, a highest of 78 and an average of 5.3. Breathtakingly distant from Racing Victoria's level of 200mcg/L and even further removed from the Victorian cobalt positives, which range from 290 to 670mcg/L. 

In Victoria, only nine horses have returned positives among the thousands tested since the threshold was introduced in April last year.

Disqualified vet Brennan who supplied Kavanagh with the cobalt-containing "vitamin" mix has claimed he supplied the same "vitamin" mix to trainers Danny O'Brien and Mark Kavanagh (a claim they both have rejected). So this leaves Moody and the Hopes who believe science will show why their four horses are so different from all the other horses tested from around the world. 

To quote American astronomer and Pulitzer prize winning Author Carl Sagan: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

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