Smerdon loses appeal over life ban
Former trainer Robert Smerdon has lost his appeal against a life ban for his part in the “Aquanita Eight” scandal.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal issued the decision late on Tuesday confirming the lifetime ban and $90,000 fine for Smerdon but reducing disqualifications for fellow trainers Tony Vasil and Stuart Webb.
VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick said Smerdon had shown no remorse over the systemic doping of horses on race days.
“Mr Smerdon has shown no remorse or contrition for his conduct. He should not return to racing,” Lambrick said in her judgment.
“His actions struck at the very heart of the integrity of racing.
“Rather than being a leader in his field, Mr Smerdon abused the industry which had served him so well over many years.”
Eight people associated with thoroughbred management company Aquanita Racing were disqualified over the conspiracy to cheat in more than 100 races over seven years, using top-ups of sodium bicarbonate and Tripart paste.
In September, VCAT found Smerdon guilty of 78 corrupt conduct charges (originally 115), Vasil of two breaches (down from seven) and Webb of one instead of three on appeal.
Vasil and Webb have both had their penalties reduced to 18 months.
Racing Victoria said Vasil’s ban would start immediately while Webb, who was stood down in January 2018, had now completed his period of disqualification.
“We welcome the Tribunal’s decision to find Robert Smerdon, Tony Vasil and Stuart Webb guilty of serious offences that have undermined the integrity of the sport and acknowledge the penalties handed down,” RV integrity boss Jamie Stier said.
The top-ups scheme was exposed when float driver and Smerdon employee Greg Nelligan was caught inserting a syringe into the Smerdon-trained Lovani’s mouth on Turnbull Stakes day in October 2017.
Nelligan is also serving a lifetime ban which he has not appealed.
Smerdon has until June 2020 to pay the fine.