Cobalt lab accreditation 'not an issue'

MELBOURNE Sep 5 2016

The fact the laboratories involved in four Victorian trainers' cobalt cases lacked specific accreditation for the method used to test for the substance in horse urine "wasn't an issue", an inquiry has heard.

No laboratory in the world had an accredited method to test for cobalt in equine urine when Racing Victoria introduced its cobalt threshold in April 2014, Racing Analytical Services Ltd lab director David Batty said.

Batty said there was no issue in his mind the two official racing laboratories involved were accredited to conduct the analyses of trainers Mark Kavanagh, Danny O'Brien and Lee and Shannon Hope's cobalt positives in 2014.

RASL was not able to test for cobalt at the time and the urine samples for the trainers' horses were sent to Perth-based ChemCentre and the Hong Kong Jockey Club lab.

ChemCentre had an accredited method for testing of cobalt in urine generally, the trainers' appeal against their cobalt disqualifications heard on Monday.

"In early 2014 no laboratory in the world had an accredited method for cobalt in equine urine," Batty told the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Batty said there was no concern about the labs' accreditation, as they were accredited to test for cobalt in urine.

Batty maintained he discussed where to send the samples and the accreditation status of labs to test in equine urine or urine generally with Racing Victoria, mainly with its former compliance assurance team head Kane Ashby.

"I would have discussed with RVL the accreditation status of the laboratories at the time and in my view it wasn't an issue," Batty said.

"Certainly there was no issue in my mind that the laboratory was accredited to do the work involved."

Ashby has previously told VCAT he was absolutely astounded by the claim Batty told him ChemCentre and the HKJC lab did not have the accreditation to test for cobalt.

Batty said his recollection differed from Ashby's.

Batty said at the time there was not a lot of choice in finding a lab to test the samples for cobalt.

"The fact that ChemCentre had accreditation for urine was something that we felt was OK because there was really no other choice," he said.

He said HKJC was considered a world leader in testing for metals, although it did not have its testing method accredited then as there was no international threshold for cobalt.

Batty said RASL was entitled to use methods that had not been accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities.

He said RASL could be testing for thousands of compounds in the early screening stage and no lab had an accredited methodology for each specific substance.

ChemCentre manager Charles Russo will give evidence from Perth on Tuesday before Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey takes the stand.



By Megan Neil - AAP

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