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A trainer and her horse have been banned from racing after both tested positive for having methamphetamine in their systems.
Rachelle Lockett, 50, and her horse Be Flexi were tested after winning a race at the Otaki-Māori Racing Club in Otaki, a town in the Kapiti Coast District of the North Island of New Zealand, on 5 January – in turn securing owners a stake of $6,720.
After Be Flexi was swabbed, results showed there was meth in the animal's system. Lockett was then made to provide urine and hair follicle samples, both of which also came back positive, while traces of the class A drug were found in the horse truck used to transport the four-year-old mare.
Initially, Lockett told investigators she had no explanation as to why meth had got into her horse's system, saying she only used the drug on a very casual basis, but the positive results showed she was a habitual user, according to Racing Integrity Unit manager of integrity assurance Neil Grimstone.
Earlier this month, the Racing Integrity Board met at Whanganui Racecourse in Whanganui, a city in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, to consider punishment for Lockett, who admitted two breaches of racing rules.
Grimstone told the board how the fact that Lockett had misled an investigator about the extent of her drug use was an aggravating factor.
He said: "The respondent had admitted only use on a very casual basis, whereas the hair sample she provided showed a history of methamphetamine abuse over the previous months."
Lockett told the board she had never wanted to hurt animals, saying: “To me, they are much nicer than people more often than not.”
The trainer said getting into trouble was 'heartbreaking', adding: “I feel I have let everybody in my whole life down.”
She was getting help for her addiction, which board chair Geoff Hall said was important, saying a disqualification was the likely punishment but that it could be suspended if Lockett successfully got off meth and was able to return negative tests.
“It is not an easy ride, Ms Lockett," Hall told her.
This week, Lockett received a three-year disqualification from the Racing Integrity Board. However, as Hall suggested, if she can stay off the drug for 18 months, she may be allowed to race again.
According to NZ Herald, since 2001 there have been 14 cases where trainers or jockeys have tested positive for methamphetamine.
Dr Alison Vaughan, the scientific officer for the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Incorporated (SPCA), said not many studies have been carried out on the impact of meth on horses, but that it should not be given to or used around any animal, given the negative affects the drug has on humans.
As the NZ Herald reports, Vaughan said: "The SPCA's position on this is pretty clear ... the racing industry has a responsibility to keep these animals safe.
"We're seeing these kinds of cases crop up quite a few times, though it doesn't always appear to have been intentionally administered to the horse.
"Still, it's completely unacceptable."