Trainer Robert Smerdon chats with media after Jockey Ryan Maloney riding Every Faith crossed the finish line to win the $100,000 race 1, Janet Brady Handicap, at Caulfield race course in Melbourne, Saturday, July 29, 2017.(AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Trainer Robert Smerdon chats with media after Jockey Ryan Maloney riding Every Faith crossed the finish line to win the $100,000 race 1, Janet Brady Handicap, at Caulfield race course in Melbourne, Saturday, July 29, 2017.(AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

‘Most serious offence imaginable’ warrants harshest sanctions

RACING Victoria has demanded life disqualifications for Robert Smerdon and stablehands Greg and Denise Nelligan as the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board hears penalty submissions over their roles in Australian racing's "biggest scandal."

RV legal counsel Jeff Gleeson told the tribunal Group 1-winning trainer Smerdon should also be fined $100,000 for his participation in what the board described as "the darkest and longest chapter in Australian racing history."

Gleeson has asked for five-year disqualifications for Tony Vasil, Stuart Webb, Danny Garland, Trent Pennuto and Liam Birchley.

The eight, all former Aquanita Racing employees, on Tuesday were found guilty of a total of 271 charges relating to race-day doping using bicarbonate "top-ups."

Gleeson said the group had committed the "most serious offence imaginable in racing - or any other sport."

"They're guilty of systematic cheating," he said.

Birchley has appealed against the RAD Board finding and will take his case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Smerdon and the Nelligans were found guilty of more than 250 charges.

In delivering his findings, Judge John Bowman described Smerdon, with Greg Nelligan, as the "driving force behind the illegal 'top-ups' conspiracy."

Bowman said Greg Nelligan was the "architect" and "promoter" of a cheating ring which operated from 2010-17 - in some of the nation's biggest races.

Denise Nelligan was portrayed as whistleblower in "one of the darkest and longest chapters in the history of the Australian turf."

"There is a litany of brazen attempts to cheat and obtain an unfair advantage over many years by a well organised team," Judge Bowman said.

Submissions on penalty from defence lawyers are yet to be made.

A decision on whether horses found to be

treated will be disqualified or not is yet to be made.



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