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No Nonsense Australian Racing Authorities Show Zero Tolerance for Cheating With Lifetime "Milkshaking" Bans

Upon reviewing one US jurisdiction's rules of racing, in this example, the California Horse Racing Board's rules, the penalty for a licensed trainer caught for a first *"Milkshaking" event is a 30 day suspension plus a fine. A second offence - 60 days plus a fine. And if the trainer is found "Milkshaking" a third time? The penalty is a 90 day ban plus a fine - with a maximum imposable suspension of 365 days in the presence of "aggravating factors".

If and when a trainer is (temporarily) banned, there is also nothing in the rules of racing to prevent the trainer from simply handing the running of the stable over to a prior assistant or foreman during their "time off". When the trainer returns from their "vacation", it is back to business as usual.

Contrast this with Australian racing's drug rules - where the message to trainers regarding cheating is, shall we say, somewhat clearer...

Prolific Melbourne trainer Robert Smerdon has been disqualified from training racehorses for life for his involvement in the milkshaking scandal that has recently rocked Australian racing. Robert Smerdon has trained over 1800 winners, including 11 Group 1 wins in his 25-year career. Other trainers Stuart Webb (four year ban), Tony Vasil (three year ban), Trent Pennuto (two year ban) were also handed serious disqualification periods.

The investigation was sparked by a dramatic sting involving the Smerdon's mare Lovani at Flemington racecourse on October 7, when his box driver Greg Nelligan was apprehended by officers and a modified syringe was immediately confiscated. According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, security staff allege Nelligan "was observed using a plunger containing a paste on Lovani" after taking the mare into an enclosed swabbing stall at Flemington. "The paste contained in the plunger was analyzed and found to contain sodium bicarbonate," according to the report.

Smerdon was said to be "the major driving force behind the scheme" as the penalties for the inquiry were presented at Melbourne's County Court. Stable employees Greg and Denise Nelligan were also disqualified for life.

Chief executive of Racing Victoria, Giles Thompson said: “We respect the decision of the independent RAD board. It’s imperative that we send the strongest possible message to the small minority who think they can undermine the integrity of our sport."

“If people choose to try and brazenly cheat the system to gain an unfair advantage over all of the hard-working and committed participants who abide by the rules of racing, then we don’t want them to have a place in our sport. Our participants, customers and the wider public expect Victorian racing to uphold the highest levels of integrity and we will continue to ensure that the very small minority who seek to breach the rules of racing are found, investigated and ultimately prosecuted."

- Boy could we do with some of this Australian backbone in US horse racing...

-- Carl Wilson


*'Milkshaking', is the layman's term for the administration of sodium bicarbonate (also known as TCO2) to a horse shortly before a race in a bid to gain an advantage. It generally involves a mixture of a high dose of baking soda, together with sugar and water being inserted via the nostril. It is designed to reduce the build-up of lactic acid in  the horse's system, thus reducing fatigue and increasing endurance. 



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