A Canterbury trainer has been suspended for six months for breaching harness racing's drug rules - but under proposed changes future offenders could be banned for up to 10 years.
Amberley based horseman Jamie Keast and his partner Henriette Westrum were outed for six months and fined $2000 after one of their horses, Westburn Creed, returned a high bicarbonate level at a Kaikoura race meeting last November.
And while the level was just 0.2 above the permitted 36mmol/l, Judicial Control Authority committee chairman Geoff Hall said an aggravating factor was that it came just two weeks after they had been fined $2500 over another of their horses Wally's Girl recording a level of 37.
It was Keast's third TCO2 charge, and Westrum's second, but Harness Racing New Zealand says it has no evidence that there is any resurgence in the practice of milkshaking which was the scourge of racing in the 1990s.
Even though bicarbonate was found on Keast's property, his counsel Mary-Jane Thomas argued there was no evidence of administration and the Racing Integrity Unit had been unable to determine the cause of the elevated level.
She submitted Westburn Creed had been suffering from a respiratory problem, and that an obstruction in his nasal cavity could explain the elevated TCO2 level because it made it more difficult for the horse to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
But Christopher Lange for the RIU submitted the results indicated the TCO2 level became elevated during the period Keast and Westrum trained the horse - and reduced after it left their care.
HRNZ will put a remit to the annual meeting of clubs next month that the threshold of 35 be raised to 36 (with a margin of error of one) to bring it into line with the thoroughbred code and overseas jurisdictions.
That, says HRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell, will reduce the risk of a false positive from one in 15,973 to one in 2,021,729.
The new level would, however, carry a significantly higher deterrent. First offenders would be disqualified for a minimum of two years, second offenders five years and third offenders 10 years.
But Keast is against automatic minimum sentences - ''We reckon we're innocent and there have been a lot of other people crucified for this already.''
Courtesy of Barry Lichter
Reprinted with permission from Fairfax media