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Non Raceday Inquiry - NZGRA v RD Blackburn - 9 July 2010 - Decision

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87.1, 87.3, 87.4, 89.1

JUDICIAL HEARING

 

 

Addington Raceway, Christchurch.

 

9 July 2010.

 

Between: New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association (Informant)(NZGRA)

 

and         : Rosemary Dawn Blackburn, public trainer (Defendant)

 

Tribunal: Nigel Hampton QC (Chair)

                 John Phelan

 

Rules: 87.1, 87.3, 87.4, 89.1

 

NZGRA was represented by Mr Paul Harper.

 

The Defendant, being present, represented herself.

 

Charge:

 

 “On the 22nd day of April 2010, Rosemary Dawn Blackburn was the trainer and the person for the time being in charge of the greyhound Ain’t That Cool which was presented for and raced in race five (David Emerson Consultancy Sprint) at a race meeting conducted by the Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club when the said greyhound was found to have had administered to it a drug, namely caffeine; being an offence under the provisions of rules 87.1 and 87.3, and punishable pursuant to Rules 87.4 and 89.1”.

 

At the start of the hearing the charge was read aloud.

 

Mrs Blackburn immediately acknowledged the charge and its substance; she also acknowledged that she had seen all the documents and the evidence, and that she wished to, and did, admit the charge.

 

Mr Harper presented a summary of facts which highlighted:

 

That the Defendant was a licensed public trainer, who part-owned and trained the dog, Ain’t That Cool.

 

That that dog, under her charge, had been presented to run in the race as set out in the charge and the dog had won the race, earning a stake of $1086.00.

 

That the dog had been routinely swabbed, such testing being cooperated in by the Defendant.

 

The sample taken showed the presence of the stimulant, caffeine and its metabolites.

 

On interview, the Defendant, again cooperative, denied any intentional administration and helped search for likely causes, “accidental”, in the dog’s diet.

 

An antioxidant dietary supplement, “Ambrotose AO”, in tablet form, was found and tested.  This product, taken by Mrs Blackburn, for her own health and also given by her to some of the dogs in her care, including the particular dog referred to in the charge, was found to have green tea in it, which tea contained caffeine. (Mrs Blackburn’s explanation as to the use of these tablets will be returned to).

 

NZGRA, importantly, accepted that the administration of the caffeine had not been deliberate, but that there was negligence on the part of the Defendant because, albeit in very fine print on the product’s label, there was printed “Caffeine 1mg (maximum)”.

 

NZGRA also accepted that Mrs Blackburn had not tried to mislead NZGRA; that she had produced the product and had explained, acceptably, how she had obtained it and why she had used it.

 

Both parties pointed to Mrs Blackburn’s 26 years of owning and training greyhounds (the last 6 years as a public trainer), without offending, and her very good reputation in the industry.

 

The Defendant’s position:

 

Mrs Blackburn explained how she was talked into buying and using the product, primarily for herself, in 2009. She said that she was assured that the product could be given to dogs without any adverse consequences. She took the salesman at his word (another witness described the defendant as a person who tended to take people on their word, at face value - she may be well advised to treat folk somewhat more cautiously in the future, the Tribunal observes).

 

She accepted her negligence in not reading the label’s fine print, and that was why she fully accepted responsibility..

 

Her view that the product was alright to be given to dogs was enhanced by the fact that she gave a tablet a day to a number of the dogs as part of their diet, that some of those dogs had been routinely swabbed, but that there had been no positive test results.

 

The dog in question was given 2 tablets a day - one in the morning, one at evening - as it was a smallish dog, and she was concerned that, because of the activities with chemicals in a nearby forestry plantation, antioxidants were required by the dog.

 

She has some 60 dogs on the property, with 12 of them being in training (4 of hers, 8 of members of the public). Disqualification of her would be very harsh upon her and the owners she trains dogs for.

 

Penalties:

 

The Tribunal saw the offending here, in these particular circumstances, as being towards the lower level, and not warranting any personal disqualification.

 

But the importance of all competitors being able to race on equal terms must be upheld and reinforced, as that principle underpins the integrity of greyhound racing. Penalties consistent with others given for similar offending were appropriate here.

 

The following were imposed and/or ordered at the hearing, and are hereby confirmed :

 

The greyhound Ain’t That Cool is disqualified from race five (David Emerson Consultancy Sprint) at the Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club’s meeting of 22 April 2010, and the $1086.00 stake earned and paid is to be repaid by the Defendant to NZGRA.

 

In that race, no. 3, Opawa Padless, is declared to be first; no. 1, Bigtime Slammer, is second; and no. 6, Ice Ball, is third.

 

A fine of $1500.00 is imposed on the Defendant.

 

She is ordered to pay costs of $500.00, payable to this Tribunal.

 

NZGRA did not seek costs.

 

 

Nigel Hampton QC

Chairman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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