MORE COBALT GRIEF FOR RACING IN OZ
If the cobalt positive returned by Felix Bay trained by Kevin Moses wasn’t enough, the laying of new charges in the Sam Kavanagh cobalt case involving multiple horses has created its own piece of unfortunate history for Australian racing.
Never before can anyone in Australian racing recall a case involving prohibited substances resulting in a record number of charges being laid. Add to this, the cases involving the four high profile Victorian trainers plus the Darren Smith case, and the scope of the problem comes into stark perspective.
The 52 charges in total laid by Racing NSW stewards against Sam Kavanagh and five others, at this point in time are just that – charges. They will be tested when the hearing of the charges is held later this month before Racing NSW Stewards.
But the collateral damage to racing has already been done. Perception in society, and so much more in racing, is reality. Racing can utter the noble principles of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but it means bugger all. Racing and the community in general has already cast its judgment.
The brand damage to racing will linger among the present generation for an entire lifetime. And yet, racing has always lived in the shadow of corruption and illegality, virtually from its birth. Finding anyone in the community who believes that racing is clean would be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Pardon the pun.
What is clear from Ray Murrihy’s approach to these cobalt positives is that he has had enough. Murrihy, rightly, is not interested in a carrot and stick approach to the problems. He’s thrown the carrots into the feed bins at racing stables and used a stick instead. And a bloody thick and powerful stick at that. He’s thrown the book at Sam Kavanagh and the entire library at his fellow accused.
The charge sheet against the six individuals is numbingly frightening. In Sam Kavanagh’s case, he has sung like a canary on amphetamines in a James Cagney movie, and it has earned him no mercy- nor respect. 24 charges will need to be defended. It can best be described as a monumental challenge given the evidence that he has presented so far to the Stewards.
Veterinarian Tom Brennan faces eleven charges, while the other four individuals face charges which can only be described as serious- in the extreme- and where, we’re tipping, there will be much bigger bombshells to be dropped that will sicken many.
Despite the gravity of the crisis facing racing, it is quite clear that trainers and their representative associations just don’t fucking get it. The public statements and comments attributed to them suggest that they apportion responsibility to the governing bodies and their integrity departments to conduct round the clock spoon-feeding exercises to plead and beg trainers to comply with the most simply expressed and articulated rules of racing. These rules are for their own bloody protection and that of the racing industry and the hapless mugs who continue to invest their hard earned into the sport, be it as punters, owners, trainers, jockeys or whoever. How long are we to be treated like mugs???
Ray Murrihy in NSW and Terry Bailey in Victoria and their governing bodies have gone to extreme lengths to warn, cajole and plead with trainers to comply with the rules of racing. They have gone to whatever lengths possible to inform and communicate rules, thresholds, penalties, hazards – you name it- through every imaginal channel of communications.
It would be blindingly naïve and downright false to suggest that trainers are unaware of these rules in their entirety. Trainers are the best informed when it comes to knowledge about performance enhancing substances. End of story! They are also expected to be- and should be- encyclopaedic in their knowledge about all aspects of the rules of racing.
To suggest ignorance of the rules and thresholds and about prohibited substances or a lack of information about such matters, just doesn’t wash. One could be forgiven for believing that some in the so-called profession that they claim to be a part of, have either the intellect of simpletons or an IQ in single figures. Or both.
The task is so simple. In reality, trainers are spoilt for choice with a raft of information about rules, substances, thresholds – you name it. All of them have their own veterinarians and governing bodies to help them. The internet has a veritable treasure trove of information, which they can and do access. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous in the extreme. Such individuals may be better off out of the racing industry. They may be doing racing a favour by pursuing a different career.
BATTLE TO LICENCE VETS CONTINUES IN NSW
The moratorium for NSW veterinarians to be licensed by Racing NSW, extended to August 1, is simply delaying the inevitable. Racing NSW’s statement on the licensing of veterinary surgeons in the state is unequivocal. August 1 is nothing more than a stay of execution.
Both the Equine Veterinary Association (EVA) and Racing NSW have expressed valid concerns in both the reasons for opposition and for the proposal in the first place.
Understandably, some of the EVA concerns appear justified. According to Sydney Morning Herald’s Adam Pengilly: “the EVA’s campaign has largely focussed on a clause that states Racing NSW can revoke a licence at any stage without explanation”, a claim that Racing NSW has denied. Pengilly further states that “other clauses in the agreement to have raised the ire of the EVA include vets not being able to have legal representation at a stewards inquiry, not being able to take any matter higher than the Racing Appeals tribunal and being gagged from commenting to the media on any matter involving the stewards or animal welfare”.
Racing NSW base their case on the licensing of veterinarians as “a process which it considers crucial to the integrity of racing” and its role as the regulator of racing and custodian of the integrity of racing.
No problem with any of that, but has Racing NSW considered the “process” that is in place in Victoria where veterinarians can be required to attend and be interrogated by stewards and the Victorian Appeals Board? The Victorians have succeeded in legislating this important change thereby by-passing the need for a licensing process for veterinarians in that State.
Clearly the role of veterinarians in racing is profound. Equally, the ability of governing bodies and their integrity units and watchdogs to access veterinarians and require their attendance and question them in relation to veterinary matters and treatment regimes cannot be disputed. But basic civic liberties and rights must be afforded and respected.
The very fact that the licensing of vets has become an issue in NSW and has escalated to the degree of disputation that it has become yet again exposes the hostile and volatile environment that exists in so many areas of the racing industry in NSW.
It is difficult in the past decade or more, since Racing NSW was established, to identify an issue which has not degenerated into conflict- settled, more often than not, in the courts of NSW.
Mediation, negotiation and compromise don’t appear in the language or vocabulary. It’s always “my way or the highway”. And, as always, conflict and disputation leaves a legacy of bitterness and mistrust which only serves to weaken the racing industry and its “50,000” participants.
Inflammatory language and strong-arm tactics may satisfy the twisted egos and self-serving agendas of despised latter-day dictators and their guardians in Australian racing, but, ultimately and inevitably, the day of reckoning awaits. What goes around always comes around. It’s called karma.
“ICE” – RACING’S NEWEST ENEMY
The revelation that a Victorian-trained racehorse had returned a positive to the most insidious substance of the prohibited drugs family – “Ice”-has, again, pardoning the pun, sent shivers through Australian racing.
In this particular case, it appears from the reports that the horse’s system may have been contaminated through human contact from an ice user either through a stable employee or external source.
The ramifications for racing are incalculable. Ice, and the so-called “recreational drugs” which are so rampant they have reached epidemic proportions in society will continue to challenge the integrity of racing- and the enforcement of the rules of racing.
As one trainer put it so aptly: “If we really enforced a strict no drugs code in racing stables, you’d struggle to hire staff”. A very sad, but very real indictment of where society is at in the modern world.
With the raft of protective legislation around privacy and testing, disclosure and unfair dismissal laws enshrined in industrial award legislation, employers, and, in this particular instance, racehorse trainers, are virtually at the mercy of their staff when dealing with issues surrounding drug use.
The atrocious behaviour of high-profile and respected adults in society, often in professional roles, indulging in drugs and glamourizing their use, merely undermines any opportunity for them to be considered as role models. It filters across every possible layer of society – across every business sector, across every sport.
It makes the job of racehorse trainers, stewards and the regulators even more difficult.
Yes, it’s one of the most complex issues facing society, and for that matter racing. But racing, like society, cannot stand still and expect a solution to miraculously present itself.
Drug users have NO place in racing. That message needs to be conveyed in the simplest and clearest language throughout the Australian racing industry.
SKY BLACKOUT “SOFT” ON WAGERING? BUT FOR HOW LONG?
From what we are hearing in bleak city, the blackout of Victorian races by Sky has not been the calamity that many had predicted, or were hoping for in relation to wagering and turnover on Victorian racing.
Whilst there may be no winners or losers from this ridiculous stalemate among the protagonists – Tabcorp/Sky and Racing Victoria- the loss of vision has not only inconvenienced punters and country and regional viewers, but provided more convincing evidence of racing’s inability to get its house in order. Racing can expect no respect from within or externally when it behaves as though it lacks self-respect- and zero long-term thinking.
If the impact on wagering is as “soft”- but for how long?- as we are hearing, then it will surely strengthen Racing Victoria’s position to broker a better deal with Tabcorp and Sky on the value of Victorian race vision? Yes? No? Maybe?