Cobalt appeals to continue into spring

Former senior Victorian steward Kane Ashby has denied knowing laboratories were not accredited to test for cobalt as appeals by four banned trainers continue into the spring carnival.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey will be among the witnesses when appeals by Danny O’Brien, Mark Kavanagh and father-and-son training partners Lee and Shannon Hope resume in early September.

Ashby, the former head of Racing Victoria’s compliance assurance team, has admitted a rule of racing governing testing procedures was not strictly followed.

But Ashby, now an internal adjudicator at the new Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, said it was absolutely false to claim he was told two labs were not accredited to test for the cobalt at the time.

“It was very clear on what laboratories could test for cobalt in urine: ChemCentre and Hong Kong Jockey Club,” Ashby said.

That advice came from Racing Analytical Services Ltd lab director David Batty, Ashby told the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Ashby said he was absolutely astounded by the claim Batty told him Perth-based ChemCentre and the HKJC lab did not have the accreditation to test for cobalt.

“If you think that I’ve bottled up something that David Batty told me, it’s absolute nonsense and it didn’t happen,” Ashby told the trainers’ barrister Damian Sheales.

Sheales said Batty had said in a statement he did tell Ashby.

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But Ashby said if he had been told, he would have arranged for the samples to be sent to another lab, Sydney’s National Measurement Institute.

“If David Batty had have told me, I would have informed my superiors and the samples would have been gone to NMI to test for cobalt.” The accreditation issue is a key appeal argument for O’Brien, Kavanagh and the Hopes, who continue to train until the appeal has been determined.

Batty is expected to be among the first witnesses called when the appeal sits for another week from September 5, after the initial nine-day hearing ended on Thursday.

It is also likely more days will be needed during the spring carnival.

Ashby agreed with Sheales there were a number of breaches of the racing rules when the cobalt samples were tested in 2014, but said it was open for Racing Victoria to operate in the way it did.

Ashby said Racing Victoria wanted samples to go directly to ChemCentre for testing, but RASL, which could not test for cobalt itself at the time, wanted to retain custody of the samples.

A process was put in place to split the samples, with RASL to test for all other substances and ChemCentre for cobalt.

“The rule wasn’t followed in its entirety,” Ashby said.

“Clearly the referral of the A sample to Racing Analytical Services, that part of the rule wasn’t followed but that was an agreed process.”

Questioned about breaking the rules, Ashby said: “It was open to us on the in-house legal advice we received to operate in that manner.”

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