Day At The Track

O'Sullivan and Scott charged with Cobalt offences

12:19 PM 26 Feb 2016 NZDT
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Lance O'Sullivan Andrew Scott
Lance O'Sullivan
Andrew Scott

Following a detailed investigation the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has charged the trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott with three breaches of Rule 804 (2) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing. 

The charges relate to presenting three horses to race with a prohibited substance, namely, Cobalt at a level above the threshold of 200ug/L. 

The investigation showed that the circumstances surrounding the cobalt positives in New Zealand were significantly different to the recent Australian cases, where trainers were charged with the administration of a prohibited substance. 

An explanation provided by Wexford Stables was that their horses had been exposed to heavily cobalt dosed water troughs the horses shared with dairy cattle. As part of our investigation the RIU undertook a series of trials that proved that cobalt levels above 200ug/L can come about by the oral feeding of cobalt in high concentrations. 

The trials were carried out by Dr Andrew Grierson Veterinary, advisor to the RIU. The trial and its results have been peer reviewed and confirmed by Professor Stuart Paine, an international expert on the subject. 
An application has been made for the disqualification of the horses, Sound Proposition, from its third placing in the NZ Derby on 28 February 2015 at Auckland, Quintastics, from its first placing at Matamata on 11 March 2015 and Suffire, from its first placing on 5 February 2015 at Tauranga. 
The Cobalt readings for the three horses were - 

Sound Proposition 541 

Quintastics 640 

Suffire 309 
The charges will be heard by the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), an independent racing judicial body. 
As the matter is now before the JCA no further comment will be made. 

Questions and Answers relating to Cobalt and the Charges 

1.    What is Cobalt? 
It is an essential trace element required for life and naturally occurring in horses, dogs and other mammals. 

2.    Why is it a Prohibited Substance? 

 administered in amounts much greater than required for normal living has been demonstrated to have an effect on the blood system by stimulating the production of red blood cells (erythropoiesis). The effect being similar to EPO.

3.  Why is there a threshold for cobalt? 

This is because it is naturally occurring in horses and so a level has been set above what could be considered to be a range for a normal population. The threshold of 200 ug/L has been set for the equine racing codes in Australia and NZ. This was based on a study of 2,000 samples taken from horses across Australasia. The study was carried out by the Chemistry Centre (WA), an internationally accredited racing laboratory in Perth, Western Australia and the statistical analysis of the results was carried out by Emeritus Professor Brynn Hiddert of the University of NSW. 

4.    How much Drug testing is carried out in NZ racing? 
As drug testing is a key platform of the racing industry’s integrity strategy each racing season over 12,000 drug tests are carried out. 

5.    Why has the O’Sullivan/Scott investigation taken eight months? 
Cobalt is a newly identified performance enhancing drug and therefore the number of studies on how it can be applied to breach the threshold have been limited. This has meant that both in Australia and NZ significant time has been spent investigating this area and carrying out trials. Trials not only take time to be completed they have to be ethically approved and the results analysed and peer reviewed. 
6.    What is the difference in being charged with administration of a prohibited substance and charged with presenting a horse to race with a prohibited substance? 
The charge of administration is made where there is evidence that there was deliberate administration of the prohibited substance. The charge of presenting is where there is no evidence of deliberate administration or where the prohibited substance entered the animals system through negligence, contamination or some other means. 

7.    What are the potential penalties for the charges? 
Up to 5 years suspension or disqualification and up to $25,000 fine.

New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit

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