Trainer can appeal drug suspension


BALLINA trainer Steven Phelps has until 4.30pm today to lodge an appeal against a four-month suspension handed down after a prohibited substance was found in one of his horses.

Phelps was charged and sentenced at Grafton last Friday at a stewards' inquiry into a urine sample taken from Rose General at Murwillumbah on November 26 that contained the human anti-inflammatory drug naproxen.

Phelps was not available for comment yesterday.

Northern Rivers Racing Association chief steward Bill Fanning said the sentence was in line with precedents set for similar first time offences.

"This bloke hasn't had any other previous positive (drug traces) returns in hundreds of samples over 21 years of training," Fanning said.

However he said any doping charge in the sport was treated very seriously.

"It's on the higher level of incidents that we deal with," he said.

Fanning said naproxen was not available in any veterinary preparation in Australia.

"Naproxen is like any drug, you can't have any drugs in horses," he said.

Fanning said the steward's inquiry accepted Phelps' defence that the positive return came from inadvertent administration by tablet residue coming in contact with his mare.

"The evidence was that it (naproxen levels) was at the lower end of the dosage," he said.

"The scenario advanced by Mr Phelps...the fact that he takes naproxen for a shoulder complaint and he has it in his pocket.

"Considering the concentration in the sample and the way in which he carries the substance himself could well have led to the positive result.

"He carries naked tablets in his pockets ... he feeds carrots to his horses.

"With the type of testing equipment that we have now, you don't need a great concentration to have a positive result."

Fanning said stewards also considered in Phelps' defence that he was 'frank' during the enquiry and that he strived to provide good security for his horses.

Evidence used during the inquiry from the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory detected naproxen in a urine sample taken%after Rose General won the ANZ Financial Planning Rating 62 Handicap (1200m).

Subsequently, Rose General was disqualified from the race and placings were amended.

Rose General went on the win the same race in which Daniel Baker sustained fatal head injuries, the Christmas Cup at Grafton, one week later.

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