Prominent Australian Thoroughbred trainer Robert Smerdon, his long-time assistant Greg Nelligan and Nelligan's wife, Denise, were banned for life Thursday by the Racing Victoria Appeals and Disciplinary Board. Five others inside the so-called “Aquanita Eight” received varying suspensions.
The trainers and stable employees involved were found guilty earlier this week of practicing sodium bicarbonate loading on race day, a process known as “milkshaking” in the U.S., in well over 100 races over a seven-year period. The investigation was launched after a stablehand was caught on video administering prohibited substances on race day. In total, the group faced 271 charges between them. None of them appeared at Thursday's sentencing hearing.
“It was deliberate and sustained conduct,” said Jeff Gleeson, counsel for Racing Victoria stewards. “It has cast a shadow over Thoroughbred racing.”
Racing Victoria Chief Executive Giles Thompson said authorities wanted to send “the strongest possible message.”
“If people choose to try and brazenly cheat the system to gain an unfair advantage over all of the hard-working and committed participants who abide by the rules of racing, then we don't want them to have a place in our sport,” Thompson said.
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