A Melbourne veterinary surgeon has admitted to racing integrity officers that he purchased and on-sold to a number of Victorian horse trainers the illegal blood doping product cobalt chloride, according to a Fairfax Media report.
After being interviewed by Racing Victoria Ltd investigators the vet gave officials a list of trainers to whom he had supplied the substance, after watching the “incredible” success cobalt had achieved in racing in the US.
It was sheer chance that the vet was apprehended by RVL investigators.
Integrity officers swooped on the vet’s practice when it was discovered that a package containing a significant amount of cobalt had been delivered to the wrong address.
After contacting Racing Victoria stewards, senior integrity officers interviewed the vet, who after much questioning admitted he had been supplying trainers with cobalt.
He also gave RVL stewards a list of trainers he had supplied. It is understood there were eight to 12 trainers’ names on the list.
Those trainers now fear disqualification and are currently being interviewed by racing investigators. One regional trainer was exhaustively interviewed by investigators about allegedly massive doses of the heavy metal.
Trainers who have been named could face penalties, because cobalt is a banned preparation in and out of competition.
While the trainers will not come under the threshold of 200 micrograms per litre of urine that is currently in place, they could be charged with using a prohibitive substance, not unlike the Darren Smith case in Sydney.
Fairfax Media understands the vet signed a statement regarding his involvement in the cobalt affair.
Meanwhile, another vet has also been questioned at length, with his computer being examined.
RVL chief steward Terry Bailey would not comment on the vet’s claims, because the cobalt issue was an ongoing investigation.
“All I can say at this point is that we have a number of ongoing lines of investigation,” he said.
It is believed Racing Victoria has moved to bolster the integrity department, with some members working around the clock on the investigation that has rocked the racing world.
It comes after Peter Moody, Danny O’Brien, Mark Kavanagh and Lee and Shannon Hope all had irregularities concerning cobalt.
The involvement of stable vets does not mitigate the responsibility of a trainer to present a horse “drug-free”.
This theme has seen trainers penalised across the world.
RVL stewards and integrity investigators have interviewed a number of equine vets.
With ongoing cases in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, cobalt is becoming one Australia’s most troubling integrity issues.
The veterinary surgeon who supplied information to RVL stewards could face losing his practising licence and being barred by the veterinary board.
While the prospect of a rogue vet being involved in the cobalt crisis is unpalatable, it would not be the first time a racehorse vet has been involved in a positive swab.
In fact, when there is the same positive swab across a number of trainers or stables, racing investigators naturally look for a common link between them.
This week trainer O’Brien was advised he had another positive cobalt test, registering his fourth irregularity.