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VCAT overturns cobalt doping bans on Mark Kavanagh, Danny O’Brien

Sat, Mar 18, 11:34am by Staff Writer

Just 13 months after they were handed bans of three and four years respectively, leading trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien were given the green light on Friday to continue horse training.

The pair won an appeal against their doping bans after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled Racing Victoria did not follow proper testing protocols.

The ban was initially handed down by the Racing and Appeals Disciplinary Board in January last year after four horses being trained by O’Brien and one under the watch of Kavanagh recorded excessive levels of cobalt in 2014.

Cobalt is likened to performance enhancing drug EPO, and works by boosting the horse’s red blood cells and therefore its endurance. A very low level of cobalt can actually occur naturally in horse’s too.

Judge Greg Garde heard that the trainers were not aware that veterinarian Dr Tom Brennan had administered the cobalt to the horses in a pre-race drip and was satisfied that was the case.

Judge Garde said that O’Brien and Kavanagh were not irresponsible in relying on the vet to administer the drips. Last year, Dr Brennan was found guilty of administering the cobalt to the horses and banned.

Outside the tribunal, O’Brien would not rule out taking legal action against Racing Victoria and said the he, Kavanagh and their families had been treated poorly.

According to the 46-year-old, he and Kavanagh had never intended to break the rules and they had been vindicated.

Giles Thompson, Racing Victoria acting chief executive, said the organisation was disappointed with the decision and would review VCAT’s reasons before deciding the next course of action.

Kavanagh said the process had taken a massive toll on him, both financially and emotionally and his training operations had reduced to about 20 per cent of what they were before the charges.

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