New Weapon Against Cobalt in Victorian Racing

Victoria will have a new weapon in the fight against performance enhancing substances, with the Andrews Labor Government investing $200,000 from the Victorian Racing Industry Fund to build the first ever, dedicated cobalt-testing laboratory in Australian racing.

Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, today announced the funding for Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) to purchase high-tech equipment – including an ICP-MS machine – to test both blood and urine samples for cobalt and other metals in horses and greyhounds.

RASL and the Victorian Racing Industry will also each contribute $75,000 towards the total project cost of $350,000.

RASL’s Flemington laboratory will be modified to accommodate the specialist equipment – making it the first racing laboratory in Australia to test for cobalt in-house – speeding up the testing process and reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Previously, samples had to be sent to other laboratories in Perth, Sydney or Hong Kong for analysis.

Cobalt is a metal-based substance used for performance enhancement that increases a horse’s red blood cells to carry more oxygen through the body.

As cobalt is naturally produced in horses, Racing Victoria introduced a threshold limit of 200 micrograms per one litre of urine in April 2014, with a national threshold of 200 micrograms also introduced from January 1 this year.

Earlier this year, Racing Victoria announced that four Victorian trainers were being investigated after their horses returned tests with cobalt levels exceeding the prescribed threshold.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula

“This will be Australian racing’s first dedicated cobalt testing lab, giving Victorian racing the most advanced facilities in the country.”

“Upholding the highest standards of integrity in racing is top priority for the Victorian Government, and is in the interests of all participants – particularly the public.”

Quotes attributable to David Batty, RASL Laboratory Director

“Historically this technology was – and still is – not common in racing laboratories around the world.”

“This technology will enable samples to be tested for cobalt and other inorganic trace metals in a more efficient and timely manner than was previously the case.”

Quotes attributable to Dayle Brown, Racing Victoria Executive General Manager – Integrity Services

“Ensuring that Victorian thoroughbred racing is managed and conducted with the highest integrity is of paramount importance to Racing Victoria.

“We invest significant resources into our Integrity Services and a bolstered testing regime for prohibited substances will ensure a level playing field for our 70,000 participants.