Some of Queensland’s leading veterinarians and scientists have stepped up their campaign to get Australian racing regulators to implement an immediate moratorium on prosecutions for alleged misuse of cobalt.
The move follows the nine-month suspension handed to veteran Toowoomba thoroughbred trainer Harry Richardson on cobalt charges last week.
In Queensland alone there are nearly 30 cobalt cases across the three racing codes which remain unresolved.
The letter said:
- The current test method employed to detect cobalt salts in urine was inappropriate and prone to “false positives” due to Vitamin B12 and urine concentration effects and could therefore result in convictions of innocent parties.
- It was clear that some trainers had incurred “positives” from cobalt exposure in feed and environment outside of their knowledge or control.
- The experts questioned the use of population studies on race day samples from horses with unknown exposure in feed supplements and the environment, to set a “threshold”.
- They believed there was confusion and misinformation regarding both the potency and potential toxicity of cobalt salts.
The group requested regulators provide financial and administrative support to a multi-disciplinary Committee of Inquiry to find a consensus approach to future regulation of cobalt use in racing animals.
One of the members of the group, David Dawson, said the signatories to the letter emphasised they endorsed the efforts of regulators to identify and punish those who sought to gain an advantage by unfair means – which included use of performance-enhancing substances.
Dawson, the former chief scientist of Queensland Department of Health Pathology services, said the governing bodies had an obligation to the industry to act.
“It is a problem which is deeply impacting on the industry and deserves immediate action,” he said.