Lab accredited at time of cobalt results

A racing laboratory had specific accreditation to test for cobalt in equine urine when horses trained by Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh recorded elevated readings, an inquiry has heard.

O’Brien and Kavanagh are trying to overturn their cobalt disqualifications by arguing the labs involved were not properly accredited to test for cobalt at the time.

Their appeal has heard no laboratory in the world had an accredited method to test for cobalt in equine urine when Racing Victoria introduced its cobalt threshold in April 2014.

The National Association of Testing Authorities accredited Perth-based ChemCentre’s method for testing for cobalt in equine urine on November 26, 2014.

The certificates of analysis relied on by Racing Victoria for one Kavanagh horse and four trained by O’Brien were all dated after that accreditation point, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard on Tuesday.

ChemCentre forensic scientist Charles Russo agreed with Racing Victoria barrister Jeff Gleeson QC that the analysis certificates were issued when the lab had both general and method-specific accreditation.

ChemCentre had an accredited method for testing of cobalt in urine generally, before the scope of its accreditation was extended to include equine urine.

Russo admitted, however, that the NATA logo was put on certificates of analysis at earlier points in 2014 when it should not have been used.

The appeal has heard Racing Victoria told Victorian lab Racing Analytical Services Ltd in October 2014 the certificates of analysis should be NATA approved.

Russo said the NATA stamp was put on certificates before ChemCentre’s method was accredited in November 2014, when he should not have done so.

“The method was being evaluated and there’d been no issues and I just expected to get the endorsement,” he said.

O’Brien and Kavanagh’s barrister Damian Sheales suggested Russo was under extreme pressure from RASL lab director David Batty to put the NATA stamp on, but Russo disagreed.

“I was asked and I assumed because it was being evaluated that it would be fine,” Russo said.

Racing Victoria’s chief steward Terry Bailey is due to give evidence in the appeal on Tuesday afternoon.

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