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By Graham Potter | Monday, March 5, 2018

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

If nothing else, you would think that the enforcement of the rules of racing would at least apply equally across all states in areas where alleged serious offences come under scrutiny.

Surely it would be a flaw in the overall administration of racing if it does not.

Yet here we are with racing embroiled in the massive doping inquiry stemming from the alleged activities of those involved at the coal face of the Aquanita Racing organisation over a long period of time and we have a mixed bag of responses from different racing states with regard to their handling of the status of one of the accused, trainer Liam Birchley.

Birchley has been charged by Racing Victoria stewards on three counts of allegedly engaging in “a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable.” He is pleading not guilty and will be defending the charges.

At an early stage, soon after charges were laid, Birchley agreed to not enter horses to race in Victoria until the matter ran its course.

Last week, after considering a brief of evidence supplied by their Victorian counterparts, Racing NSW stewards decided to refuse entry of any horse trained by Birchley on the basis that accepting entries from the Birchley stable at this time “would pose an unacceptable risk to, prejudice or undermine the image, interests and integrity of racing in NSW.”

So, although it was a staggered response and achieved by different means, that decision put NSW and Victoria on an even keel, albeit belatedly.

At the other end of the scale the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) has remained firm in it standpoint not to place any restrictions of Birchley’s training career in his home state at this time as his case has still to be heard.

A decision to that effect was announced prior to the NSW consideration of the matter and was again confirmed after NSW decided to ban Birchley runners from their tracks. QRIC has placed on record though that this situation could change.

My argument is not even about which of these calls may be right or wrong.

My argument is why is there such a difference between the states in this important ruling?

Surely that ‘level playing field’ that is so often referred to should also apply to the way in which cases are handled throughout the country.

Or perhaps you can point out what positive reason there might be to do otherwise.

I just don’t see it!

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