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Non Raceday Inquiry - NZTR v Z Thomson - 18 August 2010 Decision

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JUDICIAL COMMITTEE: Mrs N M Moffatt Chairman

                                        Mr T Castles


REGISTRAR:                    Mr M Sanders


PRESENT:                        Mr Ross Neal, (Senior Stipendiary Steward)

                                         Mr Zane Thomson (Defendant)

                                         Ms Kylie Wakely (Support Person)

                                         Mr D. Smith (Support Person)

                                         Mr E. Lowry (Support Person)




18th August 2010





1.1              Mr Thomson is charged that on Tuesday 3rd August 2010 at Hastings, being a rider who, having being requested by a Stipendiary Steward to supply a sample of his urine which was found, upon analysis, to contain the controlled drug Cannabis as defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, committed a breach of Rule 656 (3) of the New Zealand Rules of racing AND THAT you are thereby liable to the penalty or penalties which may be imposed upon your pursuant to the provisions of Rule 803 of the said Rules.


1.2              Rule 656 (3) provides as follows:


“A Rider who, having been required by a Stipendiary Steward or Investigator to supply a sample of his blood, breath, urine, saliva or sweat (or more than one thereof) in accordance with this Rule must not have blood, breath, urine, saliva, or sweat (whichever is the subject of the applicable sample) which is found upon analysis to contain any controlled drug as defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 or other illicit substance or diuretic and/or its metabolites, artifacts or isomers.


1.3              Mr Thomson admitted the charge and acknowledged that he had received a copy of Rule 656 (3) and that he understood that Rule.


2          FACTS


2.1       Mr Neal provided written authority from the Chief Executive of NZTR to proceed with the charge against Mr Thomson and he also presented a “Summary of Facts” relating to this charge.


2.2       On Tuesday 3rd August 2010 NZTR officials attended Hastings Racecourse for the purpose of conducting drug testing on persons riding track work that morning.


2.3       Mr Thomson, who holds a Class B Miscellaneous licence (track rider), was one of the persons selected to be tested. He was served with the appropriate notice and directed to attend the testing station prior to leaving the course that day.


2.4       Mr Thomson duly attended the testing station as requested and supplied a sample of his urine which was given a unique ID number and that sample was delivered to the ESR Laboratory by Senior Steward Neal the following day.


2.5       NZTR received a certificate from ESR dated 6th August 2010 stating that the sample had tested positive to cannabis. (Copy of document provided)


2.6       On Wednesday 11th August 2010 Mr Thomson was handed a copy of the ESR certificate and a stand-down notice pursuant to Rule 657 (1) (b). (Produced in evidence)


2.7       Mr Thomson was interviewed on the 11th August and readily admitted that he had taken cannabis but this was only to aid him to sleep at nights. He said that he was having issues with his health and taking cannabis assisted with the management of his illness.


2.8       The defendant said that he derives his income from riding track work for various trainers in the Hawke’s Bay region and that his exclusion from riding would seriously compromise his financial position.


2.9       During the process of testing and subsequent interview Mr Thomson was totally cooperative and provided open and honest answers to all enquiries.


2.10     Mr Thomson acknowledged that the facts as presented by Mr Neal were correct and told the committee that he had been undergoing tests for a chronic health problem. He was having great difficulty sleeping and for the past few weeks only he had been using cannabis at night to help him sleep.



2.11           In addition Mr Thomson produced a letter of support from 20 local horse people who used his services. They said that he was a gifted horseman and only one of two people available at the Hastings track to ride work and sort out difficult horses.





3.1              NZTR commenced drug testing riders in 1995 and since this time there has been growing awareness that an absolute obligation rests with those riding horses to present themselves free of the influence of any drug or drugs at all times.


3.2              NZTR has an illicit drugs-free policy in terms of all riders whether they are riding in races, trials or track work. Racing Clubs who operate training facilities are also mindful that they have an obligation to provide a safe working environment.


3.3              These policies relating to drugs have been well gazetted and riders have been made fully aware of the potential consequences should they imbibe in such drugs.


3.4              In fact drug testing of riders is now an important aspect of the New Zealand thoroughbred racing industry and it is carried out for the reasons of maintaining the integrity of the industry and just as importantly it is conducted for reasons of maintaining health and safety in the workplace.


3.5              In addition to the workplace and integrity aspects it is important that riders do not unduly put at risk horses of value and worth by way of them taking or administering an illicit substance.


3.6              The fact that a rider has the presence of an illicit substance in his system represents a real risk to not only themselves but also to others.


3.7              Penalties imposed against track riders relating to cannabis offending have, in recent times, been a modest suspension of their rider’s licence coupled with a fine. In the main penalties for first offenders has been by way of suspension of 6 weeks plus a modest fine.


3.8              Mr Neal produced a table of recent breaches relating to cannabis use which showed penalties ranging from 4 week suspensions up to and including 6 week suspensions.


3.9              It is acknowledged that while the reading falls in the higher mid-range region there rests with the Defendant an absolute duty to present himself free of any drugs on the day of testing. A duty which he did not discharge.


3.10           It is also acknowledged that Mr Thomson has had significant issues relating to ill health and a problem getting a decent amount of sleep however remedying this by taking a Class C drug is not acceptable. The rules are clear what can and cannot be taken and the Defendant ought to have been well aware that self-prescribing cannabis was unacceptable.




3.11          It is also recognised that the Defendant has not appeared before a Judicial Committee in the past.


3.12          Having recognition of all the factors it is the Informant’s submission that the appropriate penalty to be imposed in this case should be a suspension of 6 weeks together with a small fine. NZTR also seek costs of $150.00




4.1              Mr Thomson said that he could not afford to be put off work as that was his only source of income. He is a freelance track rider and is only paid for the work he actually does.


4.2              Mr Smith said that Mr Thomson had worked for him for 3 ½ years and they were badly short of riders in the area.



4.3              Many people other than Mr Thomson would be penalised if he was to lose his license.






5.1              In coming to a decision as to penalty this Committee carefully considered all of the evidence put before it as well as the penalty submissions.


5.2              We took into account Mr Thomson’s full and frank admission of the breach, the large amount of support from the Hawke’s Bay racing community and the fact that he has not previously offended.


5.3              The integrity of racing however is paramount and the racing industry has made it quite clear that drugs will not be tolerated. The safety of both horse and riders is at risk if riders are under the influence of drugs.



5.4              The committee does accept that Mr Thomson suffers some significant health issues which are affecting his sleep however he is fully aware of the rules and regulations surrounding the use of drugs in the racing industry. The use of cannabis for health reasons cannot be condoned.



5.5              A monetary penalty only would be sending the wrong image to the racing industry and would not serve as a deterrent to Mr Thomson or others who might be tempted to use drugs. We are mindful that we must impose a penalty that is consistent with the penalties imposed in similar cases.


5.6              The list of penalties put before us for cannabis range from 4 to 6 week suspensions. It is the opinion of this committee that Mr Thomson’s breach falls in the middle of this range.



5.7              In view of the fact that Mr Thomson’s licence was withdrawn on 10th August 2010 we formally reinstate his licence as at the date 18th August 2010.


5.8              Taking all of the above matters into account we are satisfied that an appropriate penalty in this case is a suspension of Mr Thomson’s licence for a period of 5 weeks. The suspension is to take effect as from the date on the issue of the “license withdrawal notice” which is 11th August 2010 and is to end on 15th September 2010, both dates inclusive.


5.9              We are satisfied that the costs sought by NZTR were reasonable and there is an order to pay $150.00 costs to NZTR.


5.10          It was explained to Mr Thomson that he would also be required to pay a portion of the JCA costs and there was an order he pay the sum of $200.00 to the JCA.








N M Moffatt                                                                T Castles

Chairman                                                                    Committee



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