Queensland’s racing minister has ordered an audit of sample handling procedures after the quashing of the disqualifications of three harness racing trainers outed for administering cobalt to their horses.
Racing minister Bill Byrne has demanded the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing and Racing Queensland to engage accounting firm Deloitte to “conduct a comprehensive audit of all handling procedures of the Racing Science Centre, the Office of Racing Regulation and Racing Queensland.
The move comes after the harness trio’s bans, totalling six years, were overturned because a “procedural error of law had occurred in the applicable certification process”.
The decision is also set to affect the thoroughbred industry with cobalt bans issued to Jamie McConachy and Glen Baker set to be ruled void.
McConachy received an 18-month ban after a sample taken from Vandalised revealed an elevated cobalt level after he won last year’s Rockhampton Cup while Baker got two years on a similar charge after French Lesson failed a cobalt test after winning in January.
The mistake arose because the Racing Science Centre in Queensland did not have the facilities to conduct cobalt testing at the time.
The situation meant the samples needed to be sent to Perth’s ChemCentre and the National Measurement Institute in Sydney but neither laboratory was correctly accredited under Queensland’s Racing Act (2002) to conduct the tests.
The oversight meant any of either laboratory’s findings would have been inadmissible in court.
Racing Queensland’s acting chief executive Ian Hall, an employee of accounting firm KPMG, said there was no doubt the samples in question contained cobalt levels well above the 200mg/L threshold but the legal issues would prevent the relevant cases proceeding.
“There is an issue pertaining to an administrative error relating to the certification of the laboratories for the specific purposes of the Racing Act 2002 framework,” Hall said in a statement.
“Today’s outcome does not impact any future samples in Queensland.”
Byrne said Queensland’s Racing Science Centre has been able to test for cobalt since May 26 while the government would add the secondary testing laboratories such as ChemCentre and the National Measurement Institute to the list of certified facilities.
“We are currently seeking legal advice to assess if any legislative changes are required to be made as a consequence of this matter,” Byrne said.