Non-Raceday Inquiry – Decision dated 17 September 2021 – Craig Roberts

ID: RIB4565

Respondent(s):
Anthony Craig Roberts - Trainer

Applicant:
Kylie Williams, Racing Investigator

Adjudicators:
Russell McKenzie (Chair) and Dave Anderson

Persons Present:
Video Conference - The Adjudicative Committee Members, the Applicant and the Respondent

Information Number:
A16651

Decision Type:
Adjudicative Decision

Charge:
Failed to Present Greyhound Free of Prohibited Substances

Rule(s):
61.1 and 61.3

Plea:
Admitted

Animal Name:
Willene Bale

Code:
Greyhound

Race Date:
27/07/2021

Race Club:
Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club

Race Location:
Addington Raceway - 75 Jack Hinton Drive, Addington, Christchurch, 8024

Race Number:
R2

Hearing Date:
14/09/2021

Hearing Location:
Video Conference

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Trainer Craig Roberts fined the sum of $2,000.

BACKGROUND:

Mr Roberts is charged that, on 27th July 2021, as the Trainer of the Greyhound, WILLENE BALE (2019 bitch by David Bale – Kachina Allen) , he presented the Greyhound to race in Race 2, Camside Stud Stakes, at the meeting of Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club held at Addington Raceway with a prohibited substance, namely Ketoprofen, in its system, in breach of Rule 61.1 and 61.3 of the Rules of New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association.

Mr Roberts admitted the breach.

SUMMARY OF FACTS:

Mrs Williams presented the following agreed Summary of Facts:

1.  The respondent, Anthony Craig Roberts, is a licensed Public Trainer under the Rules of the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association.

2.  On the 27th July 2021,WILLENE BALE was correctly entered and presented to race by Mr Roberts in Race 2, Camside Stud Stakes, at the  Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Addington Raceway.

3.  WILLENE BALE finished first in the race winning a stake of $2,330 which was paid to the trainer. WILLENE BALE is owned by J J Wheeler.

4.   Following the race, the greyhound was routinely swabbed, swab number 153536, in the presence of Licensed Handler, Miss Tayla Duley. The connections do not contest the swabbing process.

5.   All samples from the meeting were couriered to the New Zealand Racing Laboratory and were analysed for the presence of substances prohibited under the Rules of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand.

6.   On the 10th of August 2021, the New Zealand Racing Laboratory reported in writing that the sample from WILLENE BALE  had tested positive to Ketoprofen.

7.   Ketoprofen is a prohibited substance within the meaning of the rules and its presence in a raceday sample is, prima facie, a breach of the rules.  Ketoprofen is classed as a Category 5 Prohibited Substance that has the ability to improve or impact the performance of a greyhound. Dr M L Jansen,  GRNZ Veterinary Advisor, has previously advised that “Ketoprofen is an anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic drug in the propionic acid class of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs commonly known as NSAIDS.  In New Zealand it is only available as a 10% or 15% solution for injection for use in horses and cattle.    Ketoprofen is no longer available in New Zealand as a 1% solution or as a 5mg or 20mg tablets for use in cats and dogs.  It has a meat withholding time of 4 days and a racing with holding time of 4.2 days.  It is possible that a horse or cattle-beast treated with ketoprofen within four days of slaughter and used for pet food could give rise to a positive urine test in a racing greyhound.

8.  Mr Roberts, his partner Angela Washington and kennel employee, Tayla Duley, were interviewed on 12 August 2021.  All parties were very cooperative and gave the RIU full access to the property.

9.  Mr Roberts was surprised to find a bottle of Ketoprofen in the medications cabinet. Mr Roberts and Ms Washington could not advise when the Ketoprofen was obtained, but believe it would have been several months earlier to treat a horse belonging to Ms Washington.

10. Enquiries with two Veterinary practices that treat horses, that Mr Roberts and Ms Washington have previously used, advised that neither have used that particular brand of Ketoprofen for some considerable time indicating that it is a very old bottle.

11.  Mr Roberts advised that Ketoprofen is not used to treat greyhounds. Instead, they use the prescribed anti-inflammatory in pill form, Carprieve.

12.  Enquiries with Mr Roberts’ vet, who treats the greyhounds, confirmed that they do not stock and have not supplied Ketoprofen as “it is more of a large animal drug” and hasn’t been available for many years for use with greyhounds.

13.  Mr Roberts advised that WILLENE BALE has never been sore, requiring treatment, since it was imported from Australia in July, with the dog winning it’s first four starts in New Zealand.

14.  Mr Roberts did not want the reserve sample to be tested.

15.  Mr Roberts confirmed that they purchase all of their fresh meat weekly from a local pet food producer.  Enquiries with the pet food manufacturer, and with two owners of horses that had been supplied in the week leading up to the 27th of July, did not find a source of Ketoprofen. Taking into account the tight regulations regarding dairy farms and disclosure of medications, and the processes the pet food manufacturer has in place when picking up stock, no source was found but cannot be counted out.

16.  Mr Roberts has been a trainer for many years and his stats for the last four season are below. 93 of his dogs were swabbed in the 2020/21 season.

DOGS STARTS 1STS 2NDS 3RDS STAKES UDR
20/21 53 875 129 129 108 $468,474 0.2705
19/20 55 875 139 131 121 $473,623 0.2881
18/19 52 984 186 164 136 $717,596 0.3277
17/18 71 1198 227 183 132 $741,525 0.3111

17.  Mr Roberts has two previous breaches of this Rule.

DECISION:

Mr Roberts has admitted the breach which is found proved accordingly.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS OF APPLICANT:

1.   Mr Roberts has pleaded guilty to a breach of Rules 61.1 and 61.3 after presenting WILLENE BALE at the Christchurch GRC meeting on 27 July 2021 with a prohibited substance in its system, namely Ketoprofen.

2.   The penalty provisions that apply in this case are outlined in Rule 63.1 and 61.4.

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

  1. a fine not exceeding $10,000 for any one (1) Offence except a luring/baiting Offence under Rule 86; and/or
  2. Suspension; and/or
  3. Disqualification; and/or
  4. Warning Off.

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

3.   Approach to sanctions.

The purpose of professional disciplinary proceedings can be summarised as:

To enforce a high standard of propriety to maintain the high standards and good reputation of a profession; and

To protect the public from a specific practitioner or others who might be likeminded to act. When one applies the principles of professional disciplinary proceedings to a disciplinary proceeding in a sport the purpose is to:

  • enforce a high standard of propriety to maintain the high standards and good reputation of a those involved in the sport; and
  • to protect the betting public and others involved in the sport from future breaches by the individual or others who might be likeminded to breach the rules.

4.   The standard expected of trainers relating to prohibited substances.

The prohibited substance rules impose an absolute obligation on trainers and persons in charge of the greyhound to ensure they are presented to race free of prohibited substances regardless of how the prohibited substance came to be present.

A breach of the prohibited substance rule does not require the investigation to establish how the substance came to be in the greyhound’s system.

Applying the principles that are applicable to disciplinary proceedings and focusing on maintenance of standards and not punishment it is submitted the Committee should consider:

  • the extent to which the trainer has fallen below the expected standard;
  • the reason or cause the rule was breached; and
  • what steps have been taken to modify their practices to ensure, or at least minimise the risk of the breach re-occurring.

5.   When, on a first breach, a person charged with a breach of the rule acknowledges the standard expected of them, that they have fallen below the standard, and can demonstrate practices have been modified to prevent reoccurrence it is submitted the imposition of a fine may suffice.

6.   Where, however, there is a failure to accept the standards imposed or a failure to modify practices to prevent reoccurrence, the need to enforce a high standard of propriety, to maintain the high standards and good reputation of the sport, and to protect the public from a specific individual or others who might be likeminded to act may indicate that a period of disqualification is appropriate.

7.  Relevant Precedents.

The Adjudicative Committee should have regard to relevant precedents.  There has been one greyhound positive to Ketoprofen in New Zealand that was believed to have come from contaminated meat.

RIU v J McInerney  – 13 July 2017

Subject: Ketoprofen, two greyhounds both racing on the same day – fined $2,500. Trainer sourced his own meat and not bought through a third party.

A number of thoroughbred and standardbred trainers have been charged with a breach but these cases are of limited value as Ketoprofen is a NSAID that is commonly used in horses.  Ketoprofen is not used on greyhounds and relevance should be given to previous cases where positives swabs have been as a result of contaminated meat, as is thought to be the case here.

R.I.U. v S & B Evans  – 24 May 2017

Subject: Procaine & Flunixin – three positives – fined $2,000 ($1,000 on first charge, $500 on 2nd and 3rd charge) and greyhounds disqualified. Source of positives was thought to be contaminated meat.

R.I.U. v S J Payne  – 5 June 2016 – Appeal

Subject: Procaine – three positives with two Greyhounds – fined $2,000 ($1,000 on first charge, $500 on 2nd and 3rd charge) and Greyhounds disqualified. Source of positive thought to be contaminated meat.  Extract from decision: “Just as in the Lawrence case the breach by Mr Payne is properly described as an offence for which absence of fault or culpable conduct on the part of the person charged is no defence. That means that Mr Payne is liable for the positive swabs although there is no fault or culpable conduct on his part.”

RIU v D STAPLETON  – 22 October 2015

Subject: Procaine – positive with one Greyhound – from contaminated meat – fined $2000 and the dog was disqualified.

R.I.U. v G A Lawrence – 18 August 2015

Subject: Morphine – three positive swabs resulting from contaminated kibble, fined $4,000, penalty appealed, reduced to $2,000 and greyhounds disqualified.

“Given the unique circumstances in the present case and if it only involved a single breach the Committee is of the opinion that a fine of $3,000 would be appropriate for this breach. After taking into account the compelling mitigating factors and because two Greyhounds are involved this necessitates three separate charges. However, to impose a fine of $3,000 for each breach – a total of $9,000 – would result in a disproportionately severe penalty and the totality principle requires the Committee to ensure that Mr Lawrence receives an appropriate overall sentence. It is therefore necessary for us to adjust the total of the fines downward in order to achieve an appropriate relativity between the totality of Mr Lawrence’s culpability and the totality of the fines.”

Appeal decision: “It accepted that Mr Lawrence had not deliberately fed the dogs anything containing morphine with a view to obtaining an advantage in their performance and commented that Mr Lawrence’s integrity as a trainer of greyhounds was not challenged by the Racing Integrity Unit.

Appeal decision:  “The description of a breach of R. 87.1 as an offence of “strict liability” is conceptually inaccurate. The breach is more accurately described as an offence for which absence of fault or culpable conduct on the part of the person charged is no defence. In that regard it is in the nature of an offence of absolute liability rather than one of strict liability.  Proof of the offence does not require proof of culpable conduct on the part of the person charged, nor, for the reasons recorded earlier, is the absence of culpable conduct a defence to the charge. Once the offence is proved, or admitted as the case may be, the person charged is liable to the penalties prescribed in R. 89.1. That is a fine not exceeding $10,000 for any one offence, and/or suspension, and/or disqualification and/or warning off. The Rules do not provide for any exemption from those penalties for persons found to have breached R. 87.1 but who have not been guilty of any culpable conduct associated with the breach. The reasons for that relate to the particular function R. 87.1 and similar Rules in the other racing codes have in preserving and maintaining integrity and public confidence in the racing industry.”

8.  Aggravating Features.

A bottle of Ketoprofen was found on the premises.

Mr Roberts has two historical breaches of this rule. 2008 ‘Delmon Bale’ with a $650 fine and $300 costs after the greyhound ate a discarded tea bag, and another one in the 1990’s after a Greyhound got into a bottle of Collovet that was being transported.

9.   Mitigating Factors.

It is believed that the source of the positive swab is more than likely from contaminated meat. Although enquiries were made with the meat producer and the people who supplied the animals, this cannot be validated.  Trainers are reliant on farmers/owners providing correct information about any treatments given to animals that are sent for pet food manufacturing.  It has to be noted that the animals that are taken for meat processing are generally old animals, sick animals that may have been treated or animals that have sustained serious injuries that require them to be euthanised.  It will always be a risk for trainers relying on a third party declaring medication to pet food producers and consequently they will bear the consequences if the meat is contaminated.  Trainers have to believe that the meat producers have robust procedures in place for checking if an animal has been treated and keeping treated meat separate from non-treated meat.

There was no malicious intent, the dog had not sustained any injuries or been treated in any way and the drug involved is sold for large animals only.

There were no unusual betting patterns associated with the race and Mr Roberts did not place a bet.  The dog has won a further three races in a row.  We are awaiting a swab result from one of the races.

Mr Roberts maintains a very professional kennel that is of the highest standard.

Mr Roberts admitted the breach at the first opportunity and has co-operated fully throughout the investigation.

10.   Conclusion.

The Racing Integrity Board believes this can be dealt with by way of a monetary penalty.

This is at the lower end of the scale, due to the drug not being available for use with Greyhounds and has more than likely been through contaminated meat.

Ketoprofen is classed as a Category-5 Prohibited Substance and the recommended starting point is a 3-months disqualification and/or a fine of $4,000.  However taking into account the Payne and Lawrence decisions as above and other mitigating circumstances, a fine at the lower end is appropriate.

Credit must be given for the manner in which Mr Roberts and his kennel staff have conducted themselves during this inquiry and also the early guilty plea.

11.   We also seek the disqualification of WILLENE BALE under Rule 61.4 and the refund of the winning stakes, $2,330.

SUBMISSIONS OF RESPONDENT:

Mr Roberts has filed with the Racing Integrity Board the following written submissions:

“I have read and am in agreeance [sic] with all the paperwork in relation to my positive swab on  WILLENE BALE. I am at a loss and somewhat bewildered that WILLENE BALE returned a positive test to Ketoprofen. I have never administered said drug in any way, shape or form to any greyhound in all my years of training. Myself and Angela (Angela Lee Washington – holder of a Licence to Train from Harness Racing New Zealand) are extremely cautious regarding any form of drug being administered to our greyhounds. Our feed bowls are all set out in an order so that there is no confusion as to which dog gets which feed. We use gloves when preparing feeds and if a greyhound requires pain medication (post-race injury) we change gloves immediately afterwards.

It was only noticed by myself, at the time of showing Kylie Williams my medicine cabinet, that there was in fact a bottle of Ketoprofen there. After discussing this with Angela, she had remembered, some time ago, administering Ketoprofen to one of her horses and must have come back to the kennel block with the bottle in her jacket, at which time she placed it in the cabinet so she could continue to work with the dogs, intending to remove it and place inside her medicine bag which she has for the horses. This is completely removed from the vicinity of the kennels.

I have since had an audit of the medicine cabinet to ensure there are no “non-related” animal drugs present. While it is extremely frustrating, both myself and Angela cannot understand how this greyhound obtained Ketoprofen in her system.

The other two positive swabs I had (see the informant’s penalty submissions) both had an outcome as to how the greyhound obtained the drug and witnesses were provided on both occasions to verify this. I also looked into security cameras at the kennels and I will be getting them installed in the future.”

The Committee asked the Respondent whether it was his belief that contaminated processed meat fed to WILLENE BALE was the most likely source of the positive swab. He replied that Ketoprofen is a large animal product, used widely on horses and, on occasions, on cattle. It is the only possible explanation that he can think of, he said. There have been previous similar cases. Mrs Williams explained that if Ketoprofen had “gone through” another animal and into the meat fed to the Respondent’s Greyhounds, then it would only be a relatively small amount and it was difficult to say how long after consuming the meat that it would remain in the Greyhound’s system.

The Respondent submitted that to administer Ketoprofen to a Greyhound would be “detrimental” to the animal. The treatment used on a large scale on Greyhounds is a prescription-only product called “Carprieve”:

The Respondent said that he purchases his meat weekly, 6-8 25-kilogram boxes per week. He has been purchasing his meat from the same supplier for 25-odd years, he said. That supplier has to rely on the honesty of the party supplying the animal.

Mrs Williams told the hearing that the Respondent had another dog swabbed at a race meeting two days later and the swab was clear of any prohibited substance.

Referring to the previous two charges mentioned in the Applicant’s penalty submissions, the Respondent submitted that they could be distinguished from the present case on the basis that, in each case, the source of the prohibited substance could be determined,

REASONS FOR PENALTY:

[1]  The Penalty Rule is Rule 63.1. It is set out in the Applicant’s penalty submissions above.

[2]  Greyhound Racing New Zealand has prescribed starting points for breaches of the Prohibited Substance Rule according to the category of the particular prohibited substance. In the present case, the prohibited substance, Ketoprofen, we were told is in Category 5.  The starting point for a Category 5 prohibited substance is disqualification for 3 months and/or a $4,000 fine. The Informant did not seek a suspension or disqualification in this case and, indeed, a suspension / disqualification is not called for.

[3]   As is often the case in prohibited substances charges, the actual source of the prohibited substance cannot be ascertained. In this case, the most likely source and, logically, the only source is contaminated meat obtained by the Respondent from a reliable supplier he had used for “25-odd” years. The Committee accepts that to be the case and, accordingly, we have proceeded to deal with penalty in this case on that basis. The Respondent attaches no blame to that supplier who, of course, must rely on the integrity of those supplying the animals to him.

[4]   In arriving at penalty, the Committee has gained considerable assistance from the decision of the Appeals Tribunal in the case of Lawrence (2015), to which we were referred by the Applicant in her penalty submissions. In that case, it was likely that kibble from Australia fed to the three Greyhounds had resulted in positive tests to morphine. The (then) Judicial Committee at first instance imposed fines totalling $4,000. The fines were reduced on Appeal to $2,000 ($1,000 on one breach and $500 on each of the other two breaches). In the circumstances of that case, the Appeals Tribunal stated that it “doubted that Mr Lawrence had been guilty of negligence and that it is difficult to characterise his conduct associated with the breaches as culpable”. The Committee considers that such statement could equally apply to the present case.

[5]   The Appeals Tribunal in Lawrence went on to say that, in the circumstances, the penalty should emphasise the need for deterrence and denunciation (notwithstanding the absence of culpable conduct) and the need to maintain integrity and public confidence in Greyhound Racing.

[6]  In the Payne (2015) case referred to in the Applicant’s submissions, a case involving contaminated meat and three positives to Procaine and two Greyhounds, the Appeals Tribunal followed the reasoning of the Tribunal in Lawrence in arriving at a $2,000 fine. The Tribunal in Payne found that there was “no difference” between the Lawrence and Payne cases and it proceeded accordingly.

[7]   The facts of the Lawrence and Payne cases are quite similar to the present case and both are decisions of some authority.

[8]   A possible aggravating factor is that the Respondent has breached the Prohibited Substance Rule on two previous occasions. Both breaches may now be regarded as historical and we have regarded Mr Roberts’ record, for the purposes of penalty, as being a neutral factor. It is accepted by the Committee that Mr Roberts races a large number of Greyhounds each season and, looked at in perspective, his record is a very good one. In the past four seasons, we note, he has had over 3,900 runners for a total of 681 winners. In the 2020/2021 season, 93 of his dogs were post-race swabbed. Of course, we also recognise that Mr Roberts has been one of the country’s most prominent and successful Trainers of Greyhounds for a number of seasons. His record speaks for itself.

[9]   We have not overlooked the prescribed starting point of a $4,000 fine. It is appropriate to reduce that starting point having regard to the circumstances of this case and what, we have found, is the low degree of culpability on the part of the Respondent. We reduce the starting point to $3,000.

[10]   The fact that a bottle of Ketoprofen was found at the Kennels was explained to the Committee’s satisfaction and we do not attach any weight to that as an aggravating factor.

[11]   Personal mitigating factors, as submitted by the Applicant, are the Respondent’s early admission of the breach and his conduct during the course of the investigation. As earlier stated, the Respondent’s record is, at worst, a neutral factor. The Applicant did not challenge the integrity of the Respondent as a Greyhound Trainer. The Committee considers that a combination of these factors justifies a discount from the adjusted penalty starting point and, in this regard, a discount of $1,000 is appropriate. That process brings us to a total fine of $2,000, a fine which, we consider, is consistent with penalties handed down in previous cases involving similar facts.

[12]   The Committee is satisfied that a fine of $2,000 is sufficient to emphasise the need for deterrence and denunciation and to maintain integrity and public confidence in Greyhound Racing.

CONCLUSIONS:

Mr Roberts is fined the sum of $2,000.

DISQUALIFICATION OF GREYHOUND:

Pursuant to Rule 61.4, WILLENE BALE is disqualified from Race 2, Camside Stud Stakes, at the meeting of Christchurch GRC on 27th July 2021. Consequent upon the disqualification, the amended result for the Race is as follows:

1st    Adobe Bale

2nd  Goldstar Vargas

3rd   Goldstar Charm

4th   Upsurge

It is ordered that the winning stake of $2,330 be repaid.

COSTS:

Costs were not sought by the Applicant. The hearing was conducted by way of a Video Conference and there will be no order for costs for the Adjudicative Committee.

Decision Date: 17/09/2021

Publish Date: 21/09/2021