Two Australian trainers found guilty of doping horses have had their bans overturned after evidence used to prosecute them was ruled inadmissible.
Melbourne Cup winner Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien appealed after being banned by Racing Victoria for three and four years respectively last year over the use of cobalt chloride.
Four of O’Brien’s horses and one trained by Kavanagh failed urine tests.
However, a tribunal said the testing procedure “departed from requirements”.
Justice Greg Garde of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) added: “The legal consequence is that the test results are inadmissible in evidence against the trainers.”
O’Brien criticised Racing Victoria following the decision, saying that he and Kavanagh, who won the 2009 Melbourne Cup with Shocking, are “completely innocent”.
He added: “Once we understand the ins and outs of [the judgement], we will be reserving all our rights.”
Racing Victoria’s acting chief executive Giles Thompson said the governing authority were “disappointed” with the outcome and would review the reasons behind VCAT’s judgement before deciding on future action.
“It is important to remember that we took action because the horses involved returned cobalt readings that were excessively above the legal threshold that was set to protect both the integrity of the sport and the welfare of the horses,” said Thompson.
|How can cobalt boost performance?|
|“In simple terms, the administration of cobalt can assist in generating more red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body and thus allow a horse to perform at a peak level for longer without the onset of fatigue,” said Racing Victoria in a previous statement.|