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Welcome to Integrity Matters, a Harness Racing Victoria initiative delivered via Trots Media to highlight the importance of integrity in our racing code.
Integrity is the bedrock of not just all racing codes, but the entire professional sport industry. 
A level playing field is what the Integrity department strives for and we want to work with the Victorian industry to achieve this goal.
The Integrity Matters communications will appear in Harness Racer magazine, online and in an emailed newsletter. We aim to deliver participants key integrity news articles and information to educate and inform.
There are also several ways participants can contact us to report suspicious activity (click here to access those details).
If you have more general questions relating to integrity in harness racing you can email

Brent Fisher
General Manager - Integrity
It's great to launch the first edition of Integrity Matters, which we hope will serve as a valuable information tool for participants in Victorian harness racing.
Our stewards panel in Victoria has in recent seasons developed new ways to engage with the industry, answer questions, explain decisions and communicate via Social Media and YouTube, in addition to the information presented in the Harness Racer magazine and at ('Stewards Wrap').
The email address was developed to provide punters and industry followers an opportunity to ask stewards to explain the reasons behind certain decisions.
I'm looking forward to using the Integrity Matters channels to help clearly disseminate information from the stewards panel and I hope all industry participants find the information we present of value. 

Nick Murray
Chairman of Stewards
Why Integrity
Matters to Me

Craig Demmler (pictured) was suspended for 10 months from 3 May, 2017, after a horse he trained, Christian Torado, was revealed to have a cobalt concentration above the legal threshold when analysed.

Mr Demmler is currently serving his suspension and agreed to speak with Integrity Matters on the impact of his suspension.

The HRV Integrity Department thanks Craig for his involvement in the Integrity Matters initiative.
How did your suspension impact your life?
"I lost the bulk of my owners. Obviously my business was no longer. The financial impact was crippling. The length of the inquiry dragged out, which was very stressful, not only on myself but it also affected the people around me. I have questioned my future in the sport many times whether or not to continue when my suspension finishes."
What impact has your indiscretion had on your reputation in the sport?
"I believe it has had a major impact considering my name and pictures of my face have been printed in newspapers and social media."
What lessons have you learnt?
"l have learnt that it is impossibly hard to defend yourself at a reasonable cost and also I have learnt who my true friends are in the industry."
What would be the leading advice you would offer to other participants given your experience?
"My advice to anyone would be to not take your licence for granted, always read labels thoroughly and it pays to be extra vigilant of all products given to your horse."
Why does integrity matter?
"Integrity is most essential to our industry to provide a level playing field to all participants."
Reminder to trainers on cobalt, arsenic

HRV has released information previously to the industry informing trainers of their obligations in relation to the substances, arsenic and cobalt.

Trainers still continue to get positive swabs for both of these substances, so it is a timely reminder of trainers obligations under the Australian Harness Racing Rules (AHRR) to present a horse to race free of prohibited substances.

Trainers are further reminded that under AHRR 190(4) an offence is committed if a horse is presented with a prohibited substance in its system, regardless of the circumstances in which the prohibited substance came to be present in or on the horse. 

Trainers should ensure that their husbandry, supplementation and/or feeding practices do not bring about a breach of the rules. If trainers have a concern about their husbandry regime bringing about a contravention, notably in relation to the substances discussed below, they should consult their vet or the Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Integrity Department on 8378 0200.  

The presence of arsenic above a concentration of 0.30 micrograms per millilitre (µg/mL) in a raceday equine urine sample is a prohibited substance. 
Products that contain arsenic include, but are not limited to, Ferrocyl, Jurocyl, and Invigorate injections. It is claimed the use of these injectable preparations on horses may improve appetite and the appearance of the hair coat, and may aid in the treatment of anaemia or general weakness. However, there is no rational evidence-based indication for the use of arsenic in horses. Arsenic containing substances are not routinely used nor recommended as treatment for any medical condition in horses.
Arsenic is an element that naturally occurs in the environment in very small amounts in rocks, soil, water, air (from volcanic eruptions) and plants. Therefore horses, like all species, may normally inhale or ingest very small amounts of arsenic. As a result, trace amounts are normally found in animal tissue and are excreted in urine. Mining activities that expose rocks and soil to weathering can result in increased levels in local soil and water. However, environmental contamination in Australia is likely to be extremely low and not exceed a few parts per million (ppm) unless a horse lives in a contaminated mining area.
Arsenic is used in the production of pesticides and herbicides, although these applications are declining. Use of arsenic containing insecticides for management of cattle tick and lice problems in sheep was banned in 1987 yet soil around the site where the ‘dip’ once was on farms may remain contaminated with arsenic for many years. Arsenic is still used as chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and arsenic trioxide for its insecticidal properties to treat timber (ie. to prevent termite damage). This can give treated timber such as pine posts a greenish tint.
During investigations into recent arsenic irregularities reported by Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL), HRV in company with other racing authorities and RASL engaged the University of Melbourne to conduct a trial to research the levels of arsenic in horses that had ingested a known amount of CCA treated timber sawdust. This administration resulted in urinary concentrations of arsenic that exceeded the threshold concentration in some of the horses.
Therefore, it may be possible that a horse could have a urinary level of arsenic that exceeds the threshold concentration if it chews and ingests a sufficiently large quantity of CCA treated timber. With this aspect of the research completed, trainers are placed on notice that an explanation of environmental contamination (through CCA timber or other means) will not necessarily be considered a significant penalty mitigating factor for anyone found to have presented a horse with urinary concentrations above the arsenic threshold in the future. Trainers are advised to take measures to ensure that racing horses do not have access to environmental sources of arsenic including treated timber products.

The presence of cobalt above a level of 100 µg/L in a raceday equine urine sample or 25 µg/L in a raceday equine blood sample, is a prohibited substance.
Cobalt is a naturally occurring and essential trace element required for normal physiological functions. It is present in the horse’s normal diet and is present in small quantities in a number of oral and injectable vitamin and mineral substances administered to racing horses. Whilst this is so, cobalt can be misused and at high levels within the body acts as a Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF-1) stabiliser, a class of substance prohibited at all times, both in and out of competition as per the provisions of AHRR 190A(2)(l).
Substances that contain cobalt include, but are not limited to, VAM, Tripart, Tri-Cal, Electropaste, Availa-4 and Vitamin B Complex.
Action may be taken against trainers (or other persons) where evidence suggests the misuse of the substance cobalt.
The scientifically robust threshold ensures that the legitimate use of routine products containing small quantities of cobalt will not result in action being taken against trainers (or other persons) under the AHRR.
Elective testing available for trainers

The HRV Integrity Department can arrange for elective testing of horse swabs. The costs of the elective swab analysis are at the trainer's expense and involves the trainer bringing their horse to a race meeting at least one hour prior to the first race so swab samples can be obtained by the on-course Veterinarian.

Some recent examples where elective testing of horses have been conducted to assist trainers include the following:
  • A new trainer who purchased a horse from a recently disqualified trainer in relation to a positive swab;
  • A trainer who had concerns about arsenic levels of his horse as a result of a positive arsenic notification;
  • A trainer who had concerns about his horse after neighbours observed trespassers in the stabling area at the trainers property .
There may be industry participants who are unaware that elective testing can be conducted, so anyone seeking advice in relation to having elective testing conducted is encouraged to contact the HRV Integrity Department.  
Updates, reminders, news
Stable inspections & logbooks

The Integrity Department has recently completed an internal framework surrounding stable inspections.

The primary objective of a stable inspection is to ensure compliance with the AHRR (Australian Harness Racing Rules), maintain the health and safety of all persons working with and around horses, and safeguard the welfare of standardbred horses.

Stable inspections provide stewards with an opportunity to inspect the training facilities of licensed trainers, identify breaches relating to logbooks, identify and record therapeutic substances and appraise the condition of horses while contributing to the mission of HRV.

This framework is intended to set the standards of stable inspections, formalise the stable inspection process and provide guidelines to stewards. It is also a timely reminder for licensed persons of their responsibilities in relation to keeping and maintaining a logbook. In the future, a firmer approach of issuing fines to those trainers who do not keep or maintain a logbook in accordance with AHRR will be pursued.

Vets appointed to Integrity Department 
The HRV Integrity Department now has three full-time veterinarians with Dr Julia Aspinall, Dr Lesley Hawson and Dr Nick Branson.

Dr Aspinall has been appointed senior veterinarian and Dr Hawson and Dr Branson as veterinarian and all bring extensive experience including considerable backgrounds working in equine fields.

The newly appointed veterinarians are currently assisting with the implementation of micro-chipping for newly bred yearlings and looking at best practice in relation to animal welfare. They are available to assist licensed participants in relation to any queries on (03) 8378 0267 or
Endoscopic examinations

As advised on 2 January 2018, HRV will start post-race endoscopic horse examinations at Bendigo Harness Racing Club and Tabcorp Park Melton.

This initiative will start at Bendigo on 8 February, 2018, and be trialled for 12 months at these two venues. 

The program, the only one of its kind in Australian harness racing, will allow veterinarians acting upon the request of stewards to conduct thorough and timely post-race endoscopic examinations of horses that perform below expectations to identify any abnormalities and the need for further treatment.

HRV Senior Veterinarian Dr Julia Aspinall said the examinations would allow vets to check horses’ airways and provide immediate feedback to owners and trainers on course while their horses were cooling down.

“This service will assist the trainer and owner in identifying potential medical conditions which may be treated as early as possible to enhance horse health and welfare and therefore reduce costs to owners,” Dr Aspinall said.

The examinations’ launch in Bendigo is an acknowledgement of the work of the club’s veterinarian Dr Kath McIntosh, who proposed post-race endoscopic examinations and then helped develop the concept with HRV General Manager-Integrity Brent Fisher.

> Click here for the original media release on this topic

Changes to RAD Board Process

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) notifies the industry of a change in the process through which serious offence matters may be determined by the HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board, which will address delays in progressing these matters to a hearing.
HRV Integrity Department consulted with HRV RAD Board Chair Alanna Duffy and former Deputy Chair Brian Collis QC, the Office of Racing, and the committee of the Victorian Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association (VHRTDA), who all support the change.
The HRV Board approved the process and rule change at its November Board Meeting and the changes were gazetted on 23 November 2017.

Current Process
Presently, all persons charged by HRV Stewards for a serious offence receive a full brief of evidence which is a time-consuming and onerous task considering that a review of the matters since 2013 indicates that approximately 75 per cent of serious offence matters before the RAD Board were resolved by way of a guilty plea.
The following amendment will still offer any person charged with a serious offence the opportunity to be provided with a full brief of evidence, however will afford others who intend to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity with the option of a ‘summary’ hearing.

For breaches of the Australian Harness Racing Rules (AHRR) committed on or after 1 January 2018, the person who has committed the alleged breach will receive a formal letter from the HRV Integrity Department that will include (1) charge sheet(s) and particulars of the charge(s); (2) a summary of the alleged offending outlining the full factual circumstances of the case with references to supporting evidence; and (3) a copy of their Personal Offence Report.
In addition to the above, the licensed participant would receive an ‘Early Plea Intention Form’. This document would require the participant to indicate their plea intention in relation to the charge(s), before a full brief of evidence is prepared.
The nature and extent of any penalty imposed remains a matter for the HRV RAD Board, but general sentencing principles would apply.  
Steroid testing - yearlings

HRV Stewards and Veterinarians have been collecting ‘out of competition’ samples from yearlings scheduled to be sold at the upcoming Australian Pacing Gold (APG) Sales in Melbourne on Sunday 4 February, 2018.  

All samples collected have been subjected to testing by Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) on their steroid screening test, which is understood to be most comprehensive screening test in operation in Australia.  
HRV wish to acknowledge the significant support of APG in assisting HRV’s efforts to ensure compliance with the Australian harness racing rules, introduced in May 2014, which banned the use of the steroids at all times.  
Criminal proceedings

With respect to investigations undertaken by Victoria Police where licensed participants having been charged with criminal offences, all such matters are investigated and fully funded by Victoria Police including their prosecutions.   

HRV Integrity Department also remind the industry that if any licensed participant has been or is charged with criminal charges, HRV Integrity Department can take action under Rule 183 of the AHRR.

AHRR 183  
Pending the outcome of an inquiry, investigation or objection, or where a person has been charged with an offence, the Stewards may direct one or more of the following;
  1. That a horse shall not be nominated for or complete in a race;
  2. That a driver shall not drive or otherwise take part in a race;
  3. That the horses of certain connections shall not be nominated for or start in a race;
  4. That a licence or any other type of authority or permission be suspended;
The HRV RAD Board cannot hear and determine serious offences against the AHRR involving licensed participants if they have been charged by Victoria Police with criminal offences. Those matters can only be heard at the HRV RAD Board at the conclusion of criminal proceedings.     
Contact Integrity Matters any time via email:
or phone: (03) 9214 0651
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