Non Raceday Inquiry – Written Penalty Decision dated 21 March 2024 – Shirley Ross

ID: RIB40264

Shirley Loraine Ross - Other (Unlicensed Person)

Richard Carr - RIB Investigator

Hon J W Gendall KC

Persons Present:
On the Papers

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Non-race Related Charge

Possession of Permanently Banned Substance

144(1)(d) - Prohibited substance



Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:
Nil - on the papers

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Unlicensed Person Shirley Ross is disqualified for 4 months

1.  Ms Ross was charged with a breach of Rule 144(1)(d) of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) Rules in that on 6 December 2023, she was found in possession of a Permanently Banned Substance, namely a long acting anabolic steroid for muscular injection.  She was then a Licensed Greyhound Trainer.

2.  Ms Ross has admitted the charge and agreed to a penalty consideration and decision being dealt with on the papers.

3.  Ms Ross had had over 30 years experience in training and racing Greyhounds.  For health reasons, she had not raced Greyhounds for two years, but had renewed her Licence each year in the hope she could return to racing.  So she remained licensed on 6 December 2023, but later on 9 January 2024, she relinquished all her GRNZ Licences.

4.  A routine audit by RIB Staff located the Prohibited Substances in a glass vial inside a cardboard box.  The vial although sealed, had been opened and contained approximately 7ml of liquid.  Ms Ross told the RIB Investigator that she was not aware the substance was there or that she had any idea what it was.  She said she had taken possession of it from her father’s (a Thoroughbred Trainer) estate many years ago upon his death.

5.  At a later interview, she adamantly denied having used it, or any other steroid on any of her Greyhounds.  She said she had acquired this steroid, along with other medication, over 30 years ago upon her father’s death in 1994 and a lot of those medications were stored at her property after she had suffered an accident, resulting in a lengthy recovery period.

6.  Rule 144 provides “that a person commits an offence if he/she (inter alia) possesses any Permanently Banned Prohibited Substance.  Rules say that possession means that:

(a)  Any article, substance or thing is in the custody or control of a person.

(b)  The person has an exercised access to the article substance or thing.

(c)  The article is found at any time on premises used in relation to Greyhounds and the person occupies or has the care, control or management of those premises…..”

Paragraph (c) does not apply if the person, in control of the premises, proves that he or she did not know of the existence or identity of the article, substance or thing.

7.  Ms Ross, having admitted the charge, has not sought to prove, that paragraph (c) applies.  So the strict liability of “deemed” possession applies.


8.  The Informant advised that Ms Ross is aged 78 and retired from training or racing Greyhounds in January 2024 due to ill health.  She has had no previous breaches of the GRNZ Rules in relation to Prohibited Substances.  He referred to three relevant sentencing principles namely:

(a)  The need to deter others from similar offending of having Prohibited Banned Substances in their possession.

(b)  Some punishment is necessary but not disproportionate to the seriousness of the offence.

(c)  Whether the Adjudicative Committee’s disapproval of this type of breach is to be conveyed.

9.  While there are no breaches of this Rule in New Zealand, reference was made to Australia in the Greyhound Racing context to penalties of 12 months disqualification (in Westworth May 2023) and $1,500 (with $1,000 suspended) fine and 6 months disqualification for a second charge (in Hetherton, October 2020).

10.  The Informant acknowledged Ms Ross was no longer Licenced, her blemish free record; her cooperation; her compliance, cooperation and respectful stances with RIB Staff; and her earlier acceptance of responsibility for having (but not using) the substance in her possession.  The RIB submitted a penalty starting point of a 3 month disqualification plus $1,000 fine, with any adjustment at the Adjudicative Committee’s discretion to be made for mitigating factors.  It submits that the penalty reflects the need for the Rules to be complied with, to uphold and maintain high standards expected of Trainers, and to protect the integrity of Greyhound Racing.

11.  Ms Ross did not choose to make any submissions in writing.

Penalty Outcome

12.  Training of Greyhounds and Thoroughbreds have an obligation of knowing what medication substances are in their medicine supply cupboards.  This is a strict obligation where it relates to Permanently Banned Prohibited Substances.  Any breach will lead to prosecution and disqualification as a starting point, so as to deter others.

13.  In this case where Ms Ross no longer has a Trainer’s Licence or participates in the Industry, any suspension of a Licence – none such existing, is inappropriate.  Her personal circumstances and the factual background would make a fine manifestly excessive.  But – not to punish her, but so as to provide deterrence to others – a disqualification is necessary to at least set a benchmark for others to clearly understand that they will face such a sanction for such a breach.

14.  From a starting point of 6 months disqualification, a substantial discount is afforded for mitigation factors.  Although perhaps symbolic, it is fixed at one third.

15.  Accordingly, Ms Ross is disqualified for 4 months.  There is no fine or order as to costs.

Decision Date: 20/03/2024

Publish Date: 22/03/2024