Co-owner of race dog who tested positive for meth is on board of Racing Integrity Unit, Greyhound Racing NZ

Newshub can reveal a co-owner of a dog who tested positive for meth is a director on the board of Greyhound Racing NZ (GRNZ) and is also on the board of the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU).

The RIU is the body that investigates breaches of racing codes.

On November 12 last year, a dog called Zipping Sarah won its race at Addington Raceway in Christchurch but later tested positive for methamphetamine. 

The RIU laid charges and Zipping Sarah's trainer Angela Turnwald was disqualified from racing for four months as a result.

The dog is part owned by a group called the "Us Syndicate". One of those in the syndicate is Kevin Brady, who is linked to both GRNZ and the RIU. 

But the head of the RIU, general manager Mike Godber, said the conflict of interest was managed appropriately. 

He says Kevn Brady was at the meeting when the RIU learned of the positive drug test, but given his connection to the dog, Brady then left the room.

 "To meet the matter of the conflicts he left the board meeting," Godber told Newshub. 

Godber says Brady had nothing to do with the subsequent investigation. 

"I don't take direction from the board on any changes that are to be laid. They are my decisions based on reports I get from management," he said.

A 2019 review by Malcolm Burgess said the RIU is owned by the codes and Racing Board and found "It consequently lacks independence and could be susceptible to conflicts of interest."

Critics say the situation Newshub has highlighted is an example of the problems with the current system. 

"I mean how can you be administering a code, and administering the regulation of a code when you're an active participant at the same time? That just doesn't fly," Aaron Cross from the Greyhounds Protection League said.

"I mean the thought of a dog being given methamphetamine, it's abhorrent. So it (the industry) really needs a closer lense from MPI or even better, the police," Will Appelbe from SAFE told Newshub.

Brady was formerly New Zealand's Auditor General and also formerly a board member of the Judicial Control Authority, which hands down penalties for breaches in racing 

He told Newshub he has shares in a "bunch" of greyhounds and confirmed he owns a stake in Zipping Sarah.

"There was a conflict of interest but I've managed it," Brady said.

He did put a bet on Zipping Sarah the day it was doped but says it was only a small one. 

"I may have had $5 bucks or something. No significant bets. I've never had a significant bet," he added.

However, one significant bet was made on Zipping Sarah that day - $10,000 was put on the Greyhound and whoever placed it pocketed more than $40,000 in return.

Godber told Newshub he knows who placed the $10,000 bet, but said the "level of betting was not unusual for that person."

When asked if the person placing the bet could be linked to the person or persons that doped the dog he said investigations haven't shown that. 

 "We don't believe so. We've got no further investigation in that area." 

Godber told Newshub the RIU is however seeking a harsher penalty against the dog's trainer, Angela Turnwald.

"We've appealed the four months and that'll be heard by the JCA sometime in the future."

In previous cases of dogs testing positive for methamphetamine the sentence has been much higher, and Godber said the RIU had originally sought a 14 month disqualification in the case of Turnwald. 

The Racing Integrity Unit will cease to exist from July 1, when it's replaced with a new Racing Integrity Board. 

Racing Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub this will be an "independent entity, separate from the racing codes." 

"I am in the process of appointing a board, and expect to be able to announce that by the end of the month," he said. 

Roberton said the new Racing Integrity Board will resolve the issues identified by Malcolm Burgess in his 2019 review. 

Godber says the shift to a new body is a "good move". 

Greyhound Racing New Zealand's CEO, Glenda Hughes, was unavailable for an interview, but in a statement told Newshub while she understands there could be a perception of a conflict of interest GRNZ "takes no part in the judicial process" as that's up to the RIU and the JCA. 

"There is no suggestion or evidence that the Director in question (Kevin Brady) had any knowledge or participated in any way," she said.  

Neither the RIU or the JCA was unable to establish who drugged the dog Zipping Sarah or how the methamphetamine was administered.