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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v R K Roper - Decision dated 13 March 2017 - Chair, Mr A Dooley

Created on 15 March 2017

BEFORE A NON RACEDAY JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

IN THE MATTER OF the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association Rules

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

Oscar Westerlund, Racing Investigator

Informant

AND

Robert Keith Roper

Licensed Trainer NZGRA

Respondent

Information’s: A8454 & A8455

Date of hearing: 8 March 2017

Venue: Avondale Racecourse

Judicial Committee: Mr A Dooley, Chairman – Mr B Scott, Committee Member

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

Mr Roper, a licensed Greyhound Owner/Trainer, is charged with breaches of Rules 86.1 and 86.3 of the Rules of Greyhound Racing.

Charge 1 – Information A8454

On the 15th January 2017 Robert Keith Roper, licensed trainer and person in charge of the greyhound, presented GEE THUNDER for and raced in Race 1 at the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Manukau Stadium, failed to present the said greyhound free of the Category 5 Prohibited Substance Ibuprofen, being an offence under the provisions of Rules 86.1 and 86.3 and punishable pursuant to Rule 88.1 and 86.4 of the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association Rules.

Charge 2 – Information A8455

On the 26th January 2017 Robert Keith Roper, licensed trainer and person in charge of the greyhound, presented GEE THUNDER for and raced in Race 12 at the Waikato Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Cambridge Raceway, failed to present the said greyhound free of the Category 5 Prohibited Substance Ibuprofen, being an offence under the provisions of Rules 86.1 and 86.3 and punishable pursuant to Rule 88.1 and 86.4 of the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association Rules.

RULE 86.1

The Owner, Trainer or Person in charge of a Greyhound Nominated to compete in a Race, shall produce the Greyhound for the Race free of any Prohibited Substance.

RULE 86.3

Without limiting any of the provisions of these Rules, the Owner and Trainer or person for the time being in charge of any Greyhound brought onto the Racecourse of any Club for the purposes of engaging in any Race which is found on testing, examination or analysis conducted pursuant to these Rules to have received a Prohibited Substance shall be severally guilty of an Offence.

PENALTY

RULE 88.1

Any Person found guilty of an Offence under these Rules shall be liable to:

a. a fine not exceeding $10,000.00 for any one (1) Offence; and/or

b. Suspension; and/or

c. Disqualification; and/or

d. Warning Off.

RULE 86.4

Any Greyhound which competes in a Race and is found to be the recipient of a Prohibited Substance shall be Disqualified from that Race.

Mr Westerlund produced letters dated 9 February and 14 February from Mr M Godber, General Manager for the Racing Integrity Unit, authorising the filing of the Information’s pursuant to Rule 91.2 (a).

The proposed procedure for the hearing was explained to Mr Roper and he had no concerns or objections.

Documents:

The following documents were submitted as relevant to this case.

Signed Information No A8454 with Charge Rule and Penalty Provisions

Signed Information No A8455 with Charge Rule and Penalty Provisions

RIU letter of authorisation to lodge charge in relation to Information A8454 dated 9 February 2017

RIU letter of authorisation to lodge charge in relation to Information A8455 dated 14 February 2017

NZRSL Certificate of Analysis dated 24 January 2017

NZRSL Certificate of Analysis dated 9 February 2017

RIU Summary of Facts

RIU Penalty Submissions

Service of Information Confirmation dated 16 February 2017

Mr Roper acknowledged that he had received all the relevant documents and advised that he had no objection to the Summary of Facts.

Summary of Facts - RIU

The respondent Robert Keith Roper is 46 years old and holds an Owner / Trainer Licence under the Rules of Greyhound Racing New Zealand. He has held a Trainer’s licence for two and half years and currently has four greyhounds in work.

Charge 1:

Mr Roper trains the greyhound ‘Gee Thunder’ which won Race 1 - the ‘Stitches Upholstery Sprint’ - at the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Manukau Stadium on the 15th January 2017.

The greyhound was post-race swabbed (#092841) in the presence of his partner Yanisleidy Castro-Almora. Mr Roper does not contest the swabbing process.

On the 24th January 2017 the NZ Racing Laboratory Services issued a certificate of analysis detailing the sample positive to the anti-inflammatory drug Ibuprofen.

Charge 2:

Mr Roper trains the greyhound “Gee Thunder” which ran last in Race 12 - the ‘Palamountains Nutrition Stakes’ - at the Waikato Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Cambridge Raceway on the 26th January 2017.

The greyhound was randomly pre-raced swabbed (#119505) in the presence of his partner Yanisleidy Castro-Almora. Mr Roper does not contest the swabbing process.

On the 9th February 2017 the NZ Racing Laboratory Services issued a certificate of analysis detailing the sample positive to the anti-inflammatory drug Ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen is a Category 5 prohibited substance per the GRNZ regulations.

Mr Roper was interviewed at his home address on the 2nd February 2017 and admitted to giving Gee Thunder half a ‘human’ 400mg Ibuprofen tablet for a shoulder injury two days prior to the race.

In explanation he stated that once he gave the greyhound the half a tablet of Ibuprofen he realised that he had made a mistake and did not know how it would swab.

Mr Roper obtained the Ibuprofen tablet from his partner’s prescribed medication for her sore neck.

Mr Roper was again interviewed at his home address on the 11th February 2017 and he acknowledged the positive result for the greyhound, but cannot recall giving the Ibuprofen tablet to the greyhound for the second time.

Mr. Roper has been involved in the racing industry for nearly 30 years.

He has not previously appeared.

Mr Roper’s response

Mr Roper told the Committee that he is normally “pretty diligent” when it comes to presenting his Greyhounds to race free of drugs. He conceded that he made an error of judgement and advised that he knew little about Ibuprofen. He said that he didn’t do any homework on Ibuprofen which was naive on his part. He said that he was nervous when GEE THUNDER was swabbed and believed that he administered the prohibited substance too close to the race. He stated that Ibuprofen was a slow releasing substance.

In response to a question from the Committee, Mr Roper was unable to provide any evidence to support his statement that Ibuprofen was a slow releasing substance. Mr Roper advised that his partner worked in a local chemist.

In regard to the second charge Mr Roper said he couldn’t remember administering Ibuprofen. He thought the substance may still have been in the Greyhounds system from the administration on the 13th of January.

In response to a question from the Committee, Mr Roper confirmed that he has been involved in the racing industry for about 30 years. He advised that his family had previously held a Trainers license and in the 1990’s he held a Trainers license for about 4 or 5 years.

Decision

As Mr Roper admitted the breaches the Committee find the charges proved.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS - RIU

The respondent Robert Keith Roper holds an Owner / Trainer licence under the New Zealand Rules of Greyhound Racing. Mr Roper is 46 years old and has been a Trainer for two and a half years. He currently has four dogs in work.

Mr Roper has admitted two breaches of Rule 86.1 & 86.3The circumstances are detailed in the attached Summary of Facts which has been agreed.

The penalties which may be imposed are detailed in the attached Charge Rule and Penalty Provisions Document.

I believe that an appropriate penalty for the two breaches is a $4000 fine.

Mr Roper has presented the greyhound Gee Thunder several times to the races with the knowledge the dog had the prohibited substance Ibuprofen in his system.

Ibuprofen is listed as a Category 5 Prohibited Substance – substances that are registered in New Zealand for Veterinary use and have accepted therapeutic benefits to a greyhound – which commands a starting point of 3 months Disqualification and / or a $4000 fine.

In support of penalty I refer to two cases of Category 5 breaches:

RIU v BG Mitchell (4.04.2016) – Greyhound positive to the anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen administered through the ‘human’ product ‘Brufen’ Ibuprofen tablets. The penalty imposed was a $3000 fine and disqualification of the dog.

RIU v T Agent (20.01.2015) – Greyhound positive to Procaine Penicillin injected for medicinal purposes. The penalty imposed was a $3000 fine and disqualification of the dog. This was the first case following the introduction of the new ‘Penalty Starting Points’ on the 01st September 2014.

Under Rule 86.4 ‘Gee Thunder’ is required to be disqualified from the race.

The RIU are seeking no costs.

MITIGATING FACTORS

It is acknowledged that Mr. Roper has been fully co-operative with the investigation and pleaded guilty to the two breaches at the first opportunity. Mr Roper owns Gee Thunder with his partner Yanisleidy. Their loss of stake earnings from the disqualification is $960. Although careless in his actions Mr Roper has made a regrettable mistake. Mr Roper has no previous disciplinary history.

AGGRAVATING FACTORS

Mr Roper is an experienced greyhound trainer who is well aware of the caution required when using medicine in greyhound racing management.

‘Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication commonly used in humans as a pain reliever and to reduce fever. Though relatively safe for people, ibuprofen can be toxic for dogs and has a relatively narrow margin of safety, meaning that it is safe for dogs only within a very narrow dosage range.’

When interviewed on the 2nd February 2017 at his home address Mr Roper produced the prescribed medication for his partner –a blister pack of 800mg ‘Brufen’ Ibuprofen tablets. He admitted to giving ‘Gee Thunder’ half a ‘human’ 400mg Ibuprofen tablet for a shoulder injury two days prior to the race on the 15th January 2017.

When interviewed on the 11th February 2017 for the second positive result, Mr Roper acknowledged the positive result for the greyhound ‘Gee Thunder’. But cannot recall giving the Ibuprofen tablet to the greyhound before racing on the 26th January 2017.

Although careless in his actions it is inferred that Mr Roper is also culpable of ‘mid- level’ negligence, failing to take proper and reasonable care by giving Gee Thunder human Ibuprofen medicine.

In conclusion given the mitigating and aggravating factors. I believe a $4000 fine is an appropriate penalty.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS – Mr Roper

Mr Roper acknowledged that he had received the RIU Penalty Submissions in advance of the hearing. He said that he could not afford to pay a hefty fine. He said this was his 1st offence and believed a $1,000 fine would be an appropriate penalty. He said that he would prefer a suspension rather than a fine.

In response to questions from the Committee, Mr Roper advised that he was a hobby Trainer and was employed as a Project Manager. He also confirmed that he did not contact his Veterinarian regarding Ibuprofen.

Mr Roper said if a fine was imposed he would have to “drip feed” his payment.

Reasons For Penalty

The Committee carefully considered all the evidence and submissions presented.

In the latter part of 2014 New Zealand Greyhound Racing has categorized Prohibited Substances and has provided new penalty starting points in each of those categories. The Prohibited Substance involved in this matter is in Category 5 and the starting point penalty is 3 months disqualification and/or a fine of $4,000.00.

In providing the Schedule of Categories of Prohibited Substances, clearly New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association is setting higher starting points for penalties in each category and is giving a warning to Trainers who race Greyhounds which have Prohibited Substances in them.

We have taken, as a starting point, a fine of $4000, in accordance with the published starting point for a Category 5 Prohibited Substance. The Committee has not been provided with any evidence to deviate away from that starting point.

The mitigating factors were Mr Roper’s admission of the 2 charges, his clear record and his cooperation with the RIU during their investigation. These mitigating factors warrant a reduction from the starting point.

However, this has to be balanced against the significant aggravating fact that Mr Roper has presented GEE THUNDER to the races with the knowledge that the Greyhound had the Prohibited Substance Ibuprofen in his system. It is surprising that Mr Roper would consider using a human medicine on one of his Greyhounds and one that would not certainly be recommended by a Veterinary surgeon. It was our view that the Respondent has been negligent and he did not undertake any investigation about Ibuprofen.

Mr Roper suggested to the Committee that the positive swab from the 26th of January may have been due to the earlier administration of Ibuprofen. He suggested that Ibuprofen was a slow releasing drug. However, Mr Roper has not provided us with any evidence to support this suggestion.

It is very important that the Integrity of Racing is preserved and a positive test for any animal undermines that Integrity and always leads to bad publicity.

The Committee were familiar with the previous cases referred to by the RIU and have taken them into account when assessing penalty in the interest of consistency.

The Committee considered Mr Roper’s submission regarding a suspension of his Trainers license and were firmly of the view that this was not appropriate in this case.

We are also mindful of the fact that Mr Roper will have to refund the winning stake money for the race of $960.

We note that Mr Roper advised the Committee that during the 1990’s he held a Trainers License for 4 or 5 years.

On the basis that both charges involved GEE THUNDER and the Prohibited Substance Ibuprofen over an 11 day period the Committee exercised its discretion not to uplift the fine on this occasion.

After taking into account all the above factors the Committee considered an appropriate penalty was a $3,000 fine.

Penalty

Accordingly, Mr Roper was fined the sum of $3,000.

Costs

The RIU made no application for costs.

As this charge was heard on a raceday, there will be no order for JCA costs.

DISQUALIFICATION and STAKES

Rule 86.4 reads:

Any greyhound which competes in a Race and is found to be the recipient of a Prohibited Substance shall be Disqualified from that race.

Charge 1: Pursuant to Rule 86.4 the Committee orders that GEE THUNDER be Disqualified from first place in race 1 the Stitches Upholstery Sprint – at the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Manukau Stadium on the 15th January 2017.

The amended placings are:

1st BEAT THE BUTCHER
2nd HOWS YOUR MUM
3rd AGENT SCHRADER
4th BRUCE BANNER

The Committee orders that the stake money of $960.00 earned by GEE THUNDER is to be refunded to New Zealand Greyhound Racing for distribution in accordance with the amended placings consequent upon the disqualification of GEE THUNDER.

Charge 2: Pursuant to Rule 86.4 the Committee orders that GEE THUNDER be Disqualified from ran last place in Race 12 - the Palamountains Nutrition Stakes - at the Waikato Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Cambridge Raceway on the 26th January 2017.

Adrian Dooley        Bryan Scott

Chair                     Committee Member

13 March 2017

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