Day At The Track

Mark Billinger disqualified for 3 years

07:29 PM 06 Dec 2016 NZDT
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Mark Billinger
Mark Billinger

Harness Racing South Australia (HRSA) Stewards today conducted an inquiry into a report received from Racing Analytical Services Ltd (RASL) that Cobalt was detected in a urine sample taken from RAP ARTIST prior to it competing in Race 3, 2016 Sky Racing 3YO Colts & Geldings Southern Cross Final at Globe Derby on 30 July 2016.

Evidence was taken from trainer Mark Billinger regarding his feeding and treatment regime and he provided his Log Book of Treatments to support this.  Regulatory Veterinarian Dr Roger Haensel and Mr Paul Zahra Scientific Manager from RASL also gave evidence.

The evidence included two evidentiary certificates reporting the cobalt level for the ‘A’ sample of 215 micrograms per litre (measurement uncertainty of 10) and for the ‘B’ sample 220 micrograms per litre (measurement uncertainty of 20).  Further evidence provided by Dr. Haensel was that cobalt affects various body systems of a horse including the blood system and endocrine system and therefore is considered a prohibited substance.  The evidence of Mr Zahra from RASL was that the odds of the ‘B’ sample being 200 micrograms or below, was less than 1 in 333 and that there was a confidence level of greater than 99.7% that the ‘B’ sample was over the threshold.

Mr Billinger was found guilty of charges under Rules 190(1), 190(2) and 190(4) in that he presented RAP ARTIST to race at Globe Derby on 30 July 2016 not free of a prohibited substance.  Stewards relied on Rule 191(6) which allows Stewards to establish in other ways (and not just the evidentiary certificates) that a horse was presented to race not free of a prohibited substance.

In determining penalty, Stewards took into account:

  • the not guilty plea
  • the length of time Mr Billinger has been involved in training horses
  • the penalties applied in other Cobalt cases in SA and other States
  • the status of the race in that it was a Group race that created  interest and the subsequent negative perceptions when the winner returns a positive swab.

Mr Billinger was disqualified for 3 years effective immediately and ordered to pay $1500 to HRSA to cover costs incurred including analytical testing.

Acting under Rule 195 RAP ARTIST was disqualified from its first placing and all placings amended accordingly. 

Barbara Scott

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