The Racing Appeals Tribunal of New South Wales has formally announced its decision regarding the appeal by Stuart Dickinson over his 18 months disqualification to a metabolite of Cocaine in his greyhound Cawbourne Bolt.
Over 2 years ago, the Dickinson trained greyhound Cawbourne Bolt swabbed positive to a metabolite of Cocaine after winning at Wentworth Park on 7th November 2009.
Confusion reigned as official form guides originally had leading New South Wales greyhound trainer Andy Lord as trainer, but it was subsequently revealed that Cawbourne Bolt had been transferred to Dickinson’s kennel temporarily en route to New Zealand, where the greyhound had been sold too. In fact Cawbourne Bolt did race in New Zealand on the 4th December 2009.
In one of the sports longest inquiries, Greyhound Racing New South Wales Stewards held four separate inquiries on 30th March 2010, 24th April 2010, 22nd June 2010 and 16th August 2010, before finally finding trainer Mr Stuart Dickinson had been found guilty of a charge under GAR 83 (2) (a) in that he had presented Cawbourne Bolt to compete on the night in question and that the urine sample had been found to contain the prohibited substance Benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of Cocaine.
Even then it took a separate sitting on 29th June 2011 to determine Dickinson’s penalty and hand down an 18 month disqualification Almost 20 months after the race in which Cawbourne Bolt originally swabbed positive.
Dickinson immediately appealed and was granted a stay of proceedings until the Racing Appeal Tribunal hearing and that hearing has finally been heard and judgment paased – albeit 2 years since the original offence.
At the Racing Appeals Tribunal hearing Dickinson appealed against the severity of the sentence and on issues of law related to “absolute liability” and “strict liability”. In simple terms, the difference between the level responsibility that can be placed on an individual in a given circumstance, given intent, or lack there of; and awareness of all contributing factors.
Dickinson at all times, did not dispute the presence of Benzoylecgonine in the greyhounds urine, but maintained consistently that he neither administered, nor directed anyone to administer, Cocaine to Cawbourne Bolt. In fact oddly, though the urine sample contained Benzoylecgonine; no-one contested the fact that this presumed the presence of Cocaine!
Given the urine sample never tested positive to Cocaine itself, but the original penalty clearly presumed the administration of Cocaine, was this a point of procedure that could have been tested? Similarly the lack of quantitative testing which would have helped determining the actual therapeutic affect of the drug in the greyhounds system was not either.
Dickinson implied that one of his employees, Rob Wyld, was a chronic Cocaine user and that he was not aware of this at the time of the positive and that this most likely represented the source of the Cocaine contamination of the greyhound. In fact a similar defence was effectively used by Dave Righetti when a greyhound trained by him and owned by then Sky Channel’s Dale Walker swabbed positive to amphetamines and a “connection” of the greyhound was blamed for contaminating the greyhound.
At appeal, the Racing Appeals Tribunal determined that GRNSW Steward Scott Matthews had improperly transported the urine swabs both in his car and at his home during the three days since the swab was taken, and before it was delivered to the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory for testing. To our knowledge GRNSW Steward Matthews was never disciplined over this failure but coincidentally it would appear he has been “let go” by Greyhound Racing New South Wales this very month, citing “organisational changes”.
Ultimately though the Racing Appeal Tribunal found that the offence was proved and the sample was not tampered with nor its integrity compromised. Further to that the tribunal found that the liability of a greyhound trainer was one of absolute liability, and that a defence of “honest and reasonable mistake” that might apply under a “strict liability” scenario cannot be available.
That being the case, the only decision to be made was one of the penalty and Dickinson submitted he was only a breeder, and only intermittently active trainer who had not started a greyhound as a trainer in 2 years prior to the Cawbourne Bolt race. However the tribunal found that not only was he a breeder, but made significant income selling greyhounds to New Zealand, made a “considerable income by leasing out the Cawbourne training track to other owners and trainers”; and that he had “an interest in the building industry.”
However, Dickinson’s pleas of innocence and victim of circumstance were not totally lost on the tribunal who found “some weight to the subjective elements placed before the Tribunal”, while acknowledging “there is a public interest in ensuring the integrity of the greyhound racing industry. While penalty has a punitive effect, it is, in its essence, protective.”
Accordingly the tribunal reduced the original 18 month disqualification to just 10 months effective from 7th November 2011.