Level The Playing Field – Positive Swabs

Greyhound Racing is like other sports – sometimes poor judgement gets the better of those involved and bad decisions are made. In Greyhound Racing, that usually involves presenting a dog with a banned or prohibited substance.

Much has been written about the state of greyhound racing in Australia, with industry concerns focusing on a range of issues from poor tracks and fields to overbreeding – with different views from different parties each with their owns pros and cons.

What is often over looked by authorities but probably more important is the number of positive swabs and the lengths that individuals will go to in an effort to gain a winning advantage. The concerns are as follows.

  • The results of the swabs aren’t published
  • The testing procedure is not known
  • The penalties for positive swabs aren’t sufficient
  • Lack of Education

The Results Aren’t Published
A steward’s report after each race day will let participants know which dogs were swabbed and how, whether it was a pre-race or post-race test. This does two things – one, it tells participants that they can be tested and, two, it sets positive image for the industry knockers. What happens after this steward’s report? Results aren’t published and positive swabs takes months to become finalised steward’s inquiries.

However, the problem is more than this when questions are asked what were the results of each swab? Are they tested individually or a rumours correct that they pool the swabs – if all are clean no need to test each one and find who is guilty. This is also a cost cutting technique as the cost of testing would be cheaper by pooling the results. But is this the case?

Solution – the results of all greyhound’s swabbed and tested are published online in a timely manner. The test results need to show what drugs were tested and what levels if any were found in the sample taken.

The Testing Procedure Is Not Known
What exactly is tested in each of the swabs taken by steward’s on race days? Are stewards taking a swab and testing for only prohibited substance A and B, when C, D and E all impact the ability of the greyhound to perform above its normal capabilities? It is a grey area that needs clearing up. This can be achieved through education and training with all participants. How are certain drugs to be administered (legally of course) to ensure that they are not present come race days? What drugs are considered performance enhancing and what are considered supplements? Do supplements enhance performance?

Solution – we need to see a more transparent testing system, with all swabs showing an individual result.

The Penalties For Positive Swabs Aren’t Sufficient
The steward’s reports into a trainers positive swabs make for interesting reading. Some trainers get fined only, some get rubbed out for a few months and others seem to get a little longer. It differs much like a magistrate in a court of law. One thing that is common is the dog involved is disqualified from the race in question and loses it finishing position and any prizemoney. Punters still win their winnings and losers still lament their losses – the TAB’S have well and truly paid the race by now.

A recent example of a positive swab for a trainer showed that their dog tested positive to pentobarbitone – Nembutal. The result was that the trainer was fined $1000.00 and the dog disqualified from its win and the wining prizemoney. The trainer in question is not the problem and this is not a personal attack on them. But where is the punishment. For those interested the dog was able to race the following week and has done so since that time collecting checks on the next 5 of 8 starts including 2 wins. This well and truly covered the $1000.00 fine imposed by stewards.

There are countless stories throughout Australia about punishments and lack of. This is where the industry needs to get tough on those found breaking the rules. Many top quality Melbourne chasers have been found to have tested positive. Some chasers have won well over $100,000 dollars in prizemoney. Interestingly, a favourite Melbourne grey tested positive about 12 months ago and has raced top grade ever since, contesting group events consistently. Since its positive swab and over a 12 month period this greyhound has only been tested once more. Disgraceful.

A national approach is needed to stamp this negative image from our industry. Those found deliberately breaking the rules and cheating to gain advantages should not be welcome. More so, owners should be forced to take responsibility as well to ensure that they trust their chasers with trainers who set a positive image.

Debate has raged from years about how best to combat this problem – after all greyhound racing is a friendly game and if a trainer knows that they are about to be rubbed out it is easy to transfer the dogs to another person. Where is the penalty there?

A suggestion – if a trainer is found to have deliberately broken the rules than anyone associated with that trainer needs to suffer a form of consequence. Hear me out.

  • The trainer is disqualified
  • The greyhound is question is disqualified for a period of 12 weeks from conviction date, and loses all prizemoney post positive swab (we know that same inquiries can take many months)
  • Other greyhounds in the kennels of the disqualified trainer can be transferred but are not able to race for a set period of time – 6 weeks – suspended.

The benefit here is that owners will soon be placing their greyhounds with persons who set positive images for our industry. Owners will take more responsibility for the welfare of their greyhounds. Soon, the dirty trainers will be wiped from the sport.

If a greyhound is transferred between the date of swab and the finalised inquiry it still gets suspended for 6 weeks.

This solution is probably not the best method but it would have a pronounced effect on the industry and encourage all participants to ask more questions of everyone. Trainers and owners should be checking with stewards about what is and isn’t legal. What drugs are being testing for, how can a drug be administered to ensure it doesn’t affect performance?

Lack Of Education
The industry needs to provide better education and training to participants. To obtain a licence one only needs to apply. There is limited knowledge that one must possess to be able to complete a form. Courses should be run and participants required to complete regular training to remain current.

Education is one of the keys to a positive image. If trainers and persons are aware of what can and can’t be done this will assist in negating bad press and publicity. A search of the internet, greyhound webpages and clubs failed to find any education material available. I’m not sure how many chemists or vets we have training greyhounds in Australia but without some expertise how does one know what they can are can’t do? Word of mouth – but who can we trust.

Just because someone has done something for so long doesn’t mean that it is right. It just means that they haven’t been caught yet.

Let people know the acceptable levels of what can and can’t be done. Provide education and training. Assist with greyhound welfare, administering pain relief, injury rehab and supplements that should and shouldn’t be used. Above all – at least give participants something.

Conclusion
This comment is by no means a solution to the problem. These are just some concerns faced by an industry in need of attention. The fallout from bad press and publicity isn’t able to be managed. What we can measure is participation and new involvement – that we can see has been on a continued decline for as long as one cares to remember. A national approach.

The future of greyhound racing is up in the air. Negative press and the rising of anti-racing lobbies continue to push persons away in droves and prevent new participants. Track attendance is down. Tracks are closing. The TAB wants more but at what cost? Our industry is faced with a challenging climate – by adopting a national approach we will be best placed to meet the changing needs to ensure growing success. Just level the playing field.

Past Discussion