The Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board today heard a matter in regards to a charge issued by HRV Stewards under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 190(1) against licensed trainer Mr Ian Dornauf.
AHRR 190(1) reads as follows:
A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances.
The charge under AHRR 190(1) issued by HRV Stewards against Mr Dornauf related to a urine sample collected from the horse ‘Royal Deviate’ upon it being presented to race at the Echuca harness racing meeting on 1 January 2016 in Race 5, the ‘Frank and Carmel Ryan Memorial Pace. Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) reported that analysis of the urine sample revealed the sample to contain a prohibited substance, namely arsenic, in excess of the allowable threshold.
During the investigation Mr Dornauf explained he did not use any arsenic based products and that the only arsenic on his property was the treated timber fence posts which had been chewed extensively by Royal Deviate. Subsequent analysis of samples of these fence posts revealed they contained arsenic at levels consistent with Copper Chromium Arsenic (CCA) treated timber.
As background, with the acquisition of a machine capable of testing for cobalt by RASL (preventing the need for samples to be sent interstate or overseas), in June 2015 the laboratory (RASL) were also able to commence the routine testing of all collected urine samples for other metals including arsenic. With a number of samples above the threshold becoming apparent in racing jurisdictions, and common explanations as to the cause of such irregularities provided, the University of Melbourne were engaged to conduct an administration trial by RASL, HRV and other racing authorities that had also been screening raceday samples for the presence of arsenic.
At the RAD Board hearing, in addition to the consideration of statements from HRV Stewards and RASL, the HRV RAD Board considered a report from Associate Professor Cate Steel and Professor Ted Whittem from the University of Melbourne which centred on the extensive research conducted by the University of Melbourne where a trial was conducted to research the levels of arsenic in horses that had ingested a known amount of CCA treated timber sawdust. The trial revealed that it is a possibility that a horse could have a urinary level of arsenic that exceeds the threshold concentration if it chews and ingests a sufficiently large quantity of CCA treated timber. Further studies will be done in the future in an attempt to distinguish between the inorganic and organic forms of arsenic.
Mr Dornauf pleaded guilty to the charge issued under AHRR 190(1). The HRV RAD Board formally found Mr Dornauf guilty though imposed no penalty in all the circumstances of the case. In making this order, the HRV RAD Board had regard to the nature of the substance in that arsenic based products have been suggested by manufacturers as tonics that are purported to improve appetite or the appearance of the coat of a horse. The RAD Board also considered that the arsenic threshold had been developed a number of decades ago in Hong Kong in response to the suggestion (at the time) that horses were being ‘stopped’ through the use or arsenic rather than any suggested enhancement of performance. The HRV RAD Board particularly considered the results of the trial conducted by the University of Melbourne and the analysis of the fence posts from Mr Dornauf’s property. The RAD Board also noted Mr Dornauf’s guilty plea, previous record which included relevant infractions from in excess of 20 years prior and his lengthy involvement with the sport in a training career stretching over more than 35 years and involving more than 2,600 horses being presented to race. The RAD Board considered the principles of the High Court decision of Veen v the Queen when taking into account Mr Dornauf’s historical offence record. The RAD Board also considered other precedent cases involving the substance, including the matter of Rasmussen in Queensland in 2015 whereby no penalty was imposed for such an arsenic case. The RAD Board also considered the length of time involved as a result of the thoroughness of the investigation and administration trials conducted by the University of Melbourne.
The HRV RAD Board ordered under AHRR 195 that ‘Royal Deviate’ be disqualified from Race 5 at Echuca on 1 January 2016, and that the placings be amended accordingly.