COMMENT: Wow Case The Catalyst For Change

WHEN Peter Davis broke that Wow’s positive swab after his Paws win was 0.00000000002 - it sent a shiver up the spine of trainers across the country.

Adam Dobbin

14 April 2021

WHEN Peter Davis broke the news on Sunday that Wow’s positive swab returned after his Group 1 Paws Of Thunder win was a mere 0.00000000002 grams per ml – it sent a shiver up the spine of every trainer in the country.

Reactions were of varying emotions but the overarching sentiment was: “it could easily be me next”. And “how do you protect yourself from it?”

And they’re not new concerns – it’s a situation that’s been bubbling away for a while.

The torment Karina Britton has gone through as a result of Wow’s positive swab to cocaine – a permanently banned substance – is almost unimaginable.

Forget the financial fallout, the emotional toll on top of having to say goodbye to her pride and joy Wow is nothing short of tragic.

But the broader question to this saga is what’s next?

As an industry how does greyhound racing prevent this happening again?

Those questions squarely lie with Greyhounds Australasia (GA), the representative body of controlling jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand.

It’s well documented that, until now, GA has resisted any notion of introducing threshold levels for permanently banned substances.

It’s a black and white approach to a matter with copious amounts of grey, and to be frank, participants deserve so much more.

The catastrophic consequences of their closed minded approach is laid bare in Karina Britton’s situation.

In the Wow case, the near-negative levels confirm – as plain as day – that the positive swab has come by way of inadvertent touching.

The reading, so miniscule, was explained to this writer it would be like putting an eyelash on a labrador and expecting to find the eyelash 10 minutes later.

Another analogy is that the level is equivalent to a few grains of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

A key pillar of strong leadership and good governance is when management is agile enough to make decisions as situations and circumstances arise.

Can GA do that?

In recent years, the sophistication of the drug detection equipment has improved exponentially.

And that’s great – welcomed by all and sundry in order to stamp out illegal behavior yet the heightened testing regime has unintended consequences also.

Five years back, a minute trace of an illicit drug wouldn’t be detected yet, while the testing has intensified in scope, our rules and policies have not.

One leading trainer said last week they live by the adage: “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

“There’s so many variables outside our control,” the trainer said.

“You can be as meticulous as possible but the prospect for contamination is real and really unavoidable. Race day staff, catchers, presentations, on-course patrons can all have the potential to contaminate … where does it end?

“Not being impacted comes down to luck. And when you are playing with livelihoods, it just can’t be like that.”

Rest assured, a collective of trainers is moving to get industry leaders to address their concerns as a matter of urgency, citing instances where other industries have introduced common sense thresholds.

Since 2019, the use of illicit recreational drugs in Australia has increased by a staggering 37 per-cent.

Logically, as that number spirals, the prospect of positive swabs due to inadvertent contamination increase also.

It’s understood the Greyhounds Australasia Veterinary and Analyst Committee (GAVAC) is, to this day, resisting any idea of amending the rules.

GAVAC, a committee of vets from around the country, is sanctioned by GA to provide advice on matters relating to prohibited substances and their detection.

It’s time for industry decision makers to be proactive, ensure they understand the real problem which is at hand and introduce common sense thresholds to permanently banned substances.

Protecting the integrity of the sport is paramount but just as important is protecting the welfare and livelihoods of its participants.

Without prompt, well considered and measured action, the prospect of the Wow case being replayed is all-but guaranteed.

The time to act is now.