Positive cocaine test evidence of epidemic: horse trainer
Reporter: Julia Limb
MARK COLVIN: Is the snorting sound at one of Sydney's top racing stables just coming from excited horses?
Sydney's premier trainer Gai Waterhouse is using a novel defence this week at a hearing into a positive cocaine test on her horse Love You Honey.
Gai Waterhouse says the equine drug test is actually evidence of an epidemic of cocaine-snorting by humans and a number of staff in her Sydney stables have now admitted using the illicit drug.
Julia Limb reports.
JULIA LIMB: Every year thousands of racehorses are tested for banned substances, but to test positive for the white powder cocaine is rare.
In fact, it's the first time in New South Wales racing history that a horse has tested positive to the drug more commonly sniffed by well-to-do partygoers than equine noses.
And the Racing New South Wales steward's inquiry into the positive sample taken from Love You Honey has so far had some serious ramifications.
Track-rider Roy Storch has admitted to taking the drug on two occasions, leading to trainer Gai Waterhouse's defence team suggesting the rider may have contaminated the horse.
But the President of the Randwick Trainers' Association, John O'Shea, says to then suggest that there's a cocaine epidemic is unfair to the rest of the racing industry.
JOHN O'SHEA: The defence put up by Mrs Waterhouse's team is quite broad and non-specific and the reality, you know, by reading the transcripts, they're quite unaware of what's happened, which is exactly what's the scenario. They don't know what's happened, so all they're doing is speculating and in doing so they've been casting aspersions on a whole industry.
JULIA LIMB: Claims of an epidemic were made at the inquiry earlier this week, and Chief Steward Ray Murrihy says the hearing has been adjourned until Friday so evidence can be heard from stable hands who've admitted to using cocaine.
RAY MURRIHY: Well, there's not a lot of cocaine use per se, if we're talking about horses, it's one in the history of racing in New South Wales, so that's what we're dealing with at the moment.
JULIA LIMB: The Chief Steward says the use of any illegal drugs in the industry will not be tolerated.
RAY MURRIHY: Well it's a big issue if it's found. Obviously any prohibited substance found in a horse doesn't do anything for the image of racing and that's why there's stringent rules and such stringent testing in place.
JULIA LIMB: But John O'Shea says the use of recreational drugs is no more widespread in racing than it is in any other industry.
JOHN O'SHEA: We're just seeing what's the repercussions of that culture of unfortunately caught up with Gai Waterhouse, and might I add it could well and truly happen to any other stable unfairly.
It's not Gai's fault and Gai shouldn't be penalised for what's gone on there. But I think we're starting to touch on some very broader issues, apart from the fact that there's been a horse with a very miniscule residue of cocaine in its system perform at the races.
JULIA LIMB: And according to Paul Dillon from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, there is no cocaine epidemic.
PAUL DILLON: Cocaine is a drug that realistically in this country is used by very, has been used by very few people – about four per cent of the population have said that they've used the drug, far less than those who use drugs like ecstasy, amphetamines, and even LSD and other hallucinogens.
MARK COLVIN: Paul Dillon from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. The plot thickens. Julia Limb reporting.