Non Raceday Inquiry – Decision dated 1 September 2022 – Sean Collins
Penalty: Trackwork Rider Sean Collins is disqualified for 12 months
1. Mr Collins faces one charge; this is as follows:
On 23 March 2022 at Levin Racecourse, having been required by a Racing Investigator to supply his urine in accordance with Rule 656(3) of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Rules of Racing (the Rules), Mr Collins provided urine, which upon analysis was found to contain the controlled drug Methamphetamine, being a Class A controlled drug as defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, and subject to a penalty imposed pursuant to Rule 803.
2. A telephone conference was convened on 21 April 2022. Mr Collins did not attend, and efforts were made to contact him without success. The matter was initially set down for hearing on 10 May with directions as to written submissions.
3. Mr Collins subsequently engaged Mr Peter McKenzie as advocate, and on 4 May 2022 the Adjudicative Committee adjourned the hearing date and set down a further case conference following an indication from Mr McKenzie that the matter was to be defended.
4. A further teleconference took place on 10 May 2022. Mr McKenzie attended for Mr Collins as well as Mr Dennis Dow, counsel for the RIB. As a result, the matter was set down for a half-day fixture to take place on Wednesday 17 August 2022 and timetabling directions were issued for witness briefs and submissions.
5. By email of 1 July 2022, Mr McKenzie advised of his withdrawal as advocate and that Mr Collins no longer wished to proceed with the defended hearing.
6. The Adjudicative Committee issued a further minute on 5 July 2022 setting the matter down for a penalty hearing on 17 August 2022 at Awapuni Racecourse.
7. On 11 August 2022 Mr Collins contacted the RIB to advise he would not be attending the hearing. He confirmed he had not engaged in counselling and intended to take a break from the Thoroughbred Industry. Mr Collins further confirmed he was happy for this charge to be heard in his absence.
8. Mr Irving has filed submissions in relation to penalty. Those submissions were filed in advance of the hearing and also provided to Mr Collins.
9. Also provided was a Summary of Facts and the relevant facts can be summarised as follows:
a. On Wednesday 23 March 2022 Investigators from the Racing Integrity Board conducted routine investigations at Levin Racecourse.
b. Mr Collins was observed handling young horses and was one of one of eight people selected for testing who were performing a safety sensitive activity that day.
c. Mr Collins was served with a drug testing notification form at 8:25am and completed the required paperwork with a drug testing official from the detection agency official at 11:13am.
d. Mr Collins’ initial sample screened positive to several drugs including Methamphetamine and required further analysis.
e. Mr Collins initially refused to sign the paperwork required for the sample to be sent for further analysis and advised Investigators he did not take Methamphetamine.
f. The consequences of not complying with this request were explained to Mr Collins by RIB investigators and the sample was subsequently forward to the ESR laboratory for further analysis.
g. On 28 March 2022, ESR confirmed that the urine sample provided by Mr Collins was positive to Methamphetamine/Amphetamine.
10. Mr Collins is a 39-year-old Trackwork Rider licenced under the Rules.
11. Mr Collins has one previous charge for being positive to Cannabis in 2017.
SUBMISSIONS AS TO PENALTY
12. Mr Irving seeks a penalty of 12 month’s disqualification.
13. Mr Irving highlighted that NZTR has been drug testing Industry participants since 1995, and since that time there has been a growing awareness that there is an absolute obligation on those riding horses to present themselves free of any influence of any drugs.
14. It is highlighted by Mr Irving that all Riders are aware of the Policy and the consequences should they not comply. The testing is conducted to ensure a healthy and safe workplace and to maintain the integrity of the Industry.
15. Mr Irving further draws the Adjudicative Committee’s attention to the case of RIB v Eriha (June 2022), in that case a penalty of 12 months was imposed, with provision made for three months of that period to be suspended following confirmation of the completion of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation course from an accredited provider.
16. The case of RIU v Harris (June 2021) was also noted in which an 11-month disqualification period was imposed, again with a further provision for suspension or discount of three months subject to the completion of a drug rehabilitation course.
17. Lastly, the Adjudicative Committee is referred to the case of RIU v Donoghue (November 2019) where a 12-month disqualification was imposed, together with costs of $187.50 to the RIU where a Trackwork Rider tested positive for Methamphetamine.
18. In all cases, the Adjudicative Committee has commented that Methamphetamine is a Class A controlled drug, the issues with its use are well known, and the use of drugs by people involved in the Racing Industry is not something that will be tolerated. All cases highlighted, in particular, the health and safety of both horse and Rider being paramount, along with maintaining the integrity of the Industry.
19. In mitigation, Mr Irving noted that Mr Collins has been involved in the Racing Industry all of his adult life and has had a blemish free record of offending against breaching of the Rules save for the historic Cannabis charge.
20. In aggravation, Mr Irving draws the Adjudicative Committee’s attention to the fact that Mr Collins had been involved in the Racing Industry for a significant period of time and understands, or ought to fully understand the importance of being drug free.
21. The RIB submits that a 12-month disqualification period is appropriate, and further indicates its consent to a three-month suspension upon completion of a drug rehabilitation course.
MR COLLINS’ SUBMISSIONS
22. The Adjudicative Committee has received no further submissions in any form from Mr Collins, save for his indication of his intentions to step away from the Thoroughbred Industry for the time being.
23. The Adjudicative Committee considered the submissions of both parties and accepts a starting point of a 12-month disqualification is appropriate in the circumstances.
24. It is concerning that this charge forms one of a series of charges the Adjudicative Committee has heard relating from random drug testing at the Levin Racecourse in March 2022.
25. It appears the complacency continues to exist among Licenced persons as to use of drugs and the significant consequences they may create in a safety sensitive workplace where the wellbeing of others and the animals themselves must be paramount considerations.
26. Mr Collins has had a long involvement in the Racing Industry, and it is most unfortunate that his choices will necessarily lead to significant consequences for his ongoing participation in a sport it appears evident he has a significant interest in.
27. Nevertheless, the Adjudicative Committee concurs with the guidance from prior decisions that drug use of any form by Licensees in a manner that inhibits their ability to operate in the safety sensitive environment of a racecourse, and as a Licenced person more generally, is something that will not be tolerated by the Industry.
28. The Adjudicative Committee notes this has been recently reinforced in RIB v Smith (2022):
It is, or should be, well known that the interests of the Industry, its Participants, Safety, the Public and Animal Welfare, predominate where a toxic, dangerous and addictive drug such as Methamphetamine, is associated with horse or greyhound Racing
29. The consequences of engaging in such practices by Licensees should be well understood by the entire Industry.
30. In mitigation it is acknowledged that Mr Collins has admitted the breach, however, we note he has done so at a late stage of the proceeding and after significant resourcing for a defended hearing has taken place.
31. It is unclear now whether Mr Collins has a willingness to engage in drug and alcohol counselling in order to improve his wellbeing, however the Adjudicative Committee would strongly encourage him to avail himself of that opportunity.
32. In relation to Information A16855 the Adjudicative Committee has considered all the information before it and reached the conclusion that the offence is appropriately dealt with by way of disqualification, and a disqualification period of 12 months is imposed.
33. Upon confirmation of the completion of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation course from an accredited provider, three months of this period will be suspended.
34. The date of disqualification shall commence on 31 March 2022.
35. Mr Irving has sought costs, being the costs of testing for $187.50.
36. Legal fees are also sought in the amount of $500, being 60% of the RIB’s actual legal fees in preparation for a hearing in this matter.
37. The Adjudicative Committee considers the costs sought are appropriate, and orders costs of $687.50 being a contribution towards the RIB’s legal fees together with the ESR testing and analysis costs.
Decision Date: 01/09/2022
Publish Date: 05/09/2022