Funding boost to clean up racing

September 19, 2017

Pack pack rounds the final bend during the Echuca Newsagency BM70 Handicap. Photo by Luke Hemer.

THE VICTORIAN Government has ramped up its fight against drugs in racing and those within the industry have thrown their full support behind the campaign.

Echuca Harness Racing Club (EHRC) president Rob Height said while there wasn’t a direct problem in Echuca, there was certainly an awareness of drugs in racing.

Height is an owner in the industry and is well aware of the use of performance-enhancing substances in some horses.

‘‘It’s just part of the racing industry these days,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s important to have drug testing on a constant basis to keep the sport as even for everyone as possible.

‘‘With the industry’s far reaching effects into gambling it needs to ensure the public’s perspective of the sport is it’s fair and even.’’

He supported the Andrews Labor Government’s $1.6 million investment in a world-class drug testing laboratory in Flemington, saying any step in keeping the integrity of the industry, which generates upwards of $2.8 billion for the economy and sustains more than 26,500 full-time jobs, was a good thing.

Australian Harness Racing (AHR) is the governing authority in ensuring clubs such as EHRC followed the correct drug testing procedures.

‘‘They (AHR) ensure testing on race days and for any horses which place to make sure everything is spot on,’’ Height said.

The funding will go towards sophisticated new machinery and equipment at Victoria’s Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) laboratory in ensuring it remains at the cutting edge of drug screening in Australia and internationally.

The laboratory carries out more than 50,000 tests each year which has increased by more than 50 per cent across the three racing codes — thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing — since 2014.

Echuca-based thoroughbred trainer Michael Cornish agreed there had already been significant advances in drug policies in racing and said as a whole the industry was fairly clean.

‘‘The new protocols and enhanced facilities will only help the industry and us as trainers,’’ he said.

‘‘Firstly, it keeps everyone on an even playing field and so long as you’re doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about.

‘‘We’re all aware of the strict guidelines on banned substances and it’s pretty easy to find out which drugs you can’t use.’’

Echuca Racing Club chief executive Leigh Newton was also in support of the investment.

‘‘Any kind of testing or increased testing can only be good thing for the industry,’’ he said.

Minister for racing Martin Pakula said the integrity of racing is paramount with RASL matching the government’s contribution dollar for dollar.

‘‘The industry employs tens of thousands of people and generates billions of dollars for the Victorian economy.

‘‘RASL is a global leader when it comes to research and drug testing in racing,’’ Pakula said.

‘‘This funding will help to ensure the laboratory can keep up with emerging trends in international doping.’’

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