RVL stewards release reasons in Weir and McClean case

Racing Victoria stewards have released their reasons in the matter of Darren Weir and Jarrod McClean at Warrnambool on May 3rd, 2006.

Darren Weir was not charged by stewards over the matter.

Stewards report as follows:




Stable Inspection – 3 May 2006
1. I will begin by relating the events of 3 May 2006 and the evidence given on this day.
2. Darren Weir had 10 runners engaged to run at Warrnambool on 3 May 2006. Mr Weir had made prior arrangements to stable some of his horses overnight at Jarrod McLean’s property in Yangery and had notified Stewards of these arrangements.
3. Darren Weir arrived at Mr McLean’s apparently some time after 11am to take the first of his horses to the races.
4. At approximately 11.35am, Non-Raceday Steward, Brad Dunn and Investigator, Jim Monaghan arrived at Mr McLean’s property. When they arrived there did not appear to be anyone around, however the main stable doors were all locked.
5. After 5-10 minutes the roller door at the rear of the stable went up and Mr McLean appeared leading his horse Major Big Time. Mr Weir was inside the stable building brushing the tale of his horse, Maranello King.
6. Mr Weir left for Warrnambool racecourse with Maranello King at about 11.50am.
7. A stable inspection was then conducted with Mr McLean.
8. During the stable inspection a stomach tube was taken into evidence. The tube appeared to have been recently used, in that it still had liquid residue inside it, and was found hidden under shavings in one of the boxes. About this discovery, Mr McLean stated, among other things, that:
a) The stomach tube was Mr Weir’s;
b) He had seen Mr Weir hiding the tube as he opened the doors;
c) He had not seen the stomach tube before that;
d) He did not say anything to Mr Weir when he saw him hiding the stomach tube;
9. Three full packets of white drenching powder and 3 empty packets containing residue of a reddish drenching powder were also taken into evidence. These were also found hidden under shavings, but in another box. About this discovery, Mr McLean stated, among other things that:
a) He had never seen the bags before;
b) The bags had obviously not been there a long time; and
c) He wasn’t aware they were there.
10. Also taken into evidence were a black funnel and three 5 litre buckets. The funnel and buckets were located in full view in the stables, sitting on a feed bin.
11. The funnel was covered in a reddish residue of similar appearance to the residue in the three empty drench packets. About the funnel, Mr McLean stated that:
a) It was Mr Weir’s; and
b) He had never seen it before.
12. As for the buckets, two of them contained a liquid residue very similar in colour and appearance to the residue on the funnel and in the three empty drench packets. The other bucket contained a clear liquid residue. About the buckets, Mr McLean stated that:
a) He had last used them at 8.30am to 9am that morning;
b) He had used them for bran and molasses;
c) He had left them in a different place in the stables;
d) Someone had used all the buckets since he had used them in the morning;
e) Mr Weir was the only other person who had been in the stables in this time.
13. During the entire stable inspection Mr McLean maintained that he:
a) Did not see Mr Weir stomach tube any horses;
b) Did not see Mr Weir with any preparations or mixtures;
c) Did not see Mr Weir use any of the buckets.
Warrnambool Racecourse – 3 May 2006
14. At the races, Mr Weir was interviewed a number of times during the course of the day.
15. He stated that the tubing equipment and drench powders belonged to him and that he had drenched two horses at Mr McLean’s stables with the red drench mixes the day before within the Rules of Racing (that is, outside of 24 hours to race time).
16. He also stated that he hid the tubing equipment and drenching powders when he saw Mr Dunn and Mr Monaghan coming down the drive. Mr Weir stated (or very clearly implied) that it was his idea to hide the items because he didn’t wish to get Mr McLean in any trouble. The relevant part of the transcript states (P-4, Ln 28-31 of stable inspection transcript read) and also (P-8, Ln 39-43 of stable inspection transcript read).
17. Mr Weir gave assurances that none of his horses had been treated on race day and on this basis his horses were permitted to start in Races 1-7.
18. Prior to race 8, Mr McLean was interviewed at the race course by the Stewards. Mr McLean re-iterated the evidence earlier given during the stable inspection about the three buckets and his use of them that morning. He again stated very clearly and very specifically that:
a) He had used all three buckets that morning for molasses;
b) He used them between 8am and 9am;
c) The liquid residue found in the buckets must have been placed in the buckets between 8am and 11am; and
d) That only Mr Weir could have done this, because only he and Mr McLean were at the stables during this time.
19. This evidence was extremely concerning for the Stewards. As noted earlier, of the three buckets, two had a reddish liquid residue very similar in appearance to the red drench powder belonging to Mr Weir. In fact analysis from the laboratory later confirmed that the liquid in two of the three buckets contained the same substance as the empty red drench packets. What Mr McLean’s evidence suggested therefore, was that the reddish drenches must have been mixed up in those two buckets by Mr Weir on race morning.
20. During the stable inspection and to this stage in the Stewards’ room, Mr McLean maintained that he did not see Mr Weir stomach tube any horses or any mixtures made up in the buckets. If Mr McLean’s evidence about the use of the buckets were to be accepted this seemed highly improbable as the evidence was that Mr McLean and Mr Weir had been together at all times in the small barn area from the time that Mr Weir had arrived at the property.
21. Given this, Mr McLean was asked to consider carefully the evidence he was giving. He then changed his story and stated that he did in fact see Mr Weir with about one litre of a reddish mixture in a bucket. Initially, Mr McLean appeared to indicate that he actually saw Mr Weir making up the mixture, but he later stated that he in fact he did not “physically” see Mr Weir mix anything up. He had only seen Mr Weir with the mixture in the bucket.
22. Mr McLean still maintained that he did not see Mr Weir use the mixture or stomach tube any horses. He also maintained the main stable doors were locked when Monaghan and Dunn arrived because it was a windy day and the doors were prone to flying up.
23. As Mr McLean left the Stewards room, he turned to Mr Monaghan, who was present, and apologised for lying to him that morning. It was completely obvious to all present what lie Mr McLean was referring to – that is, the evidence that he had earlier given to Mr Monaghan that he had not seen Mr Weir with any mixtures or preparations that morning at his stable. This is the only part of Mr McLean’s evidence that had changed from the stable inspection in the morning.
24. As for Mr Weir, he categorically denied mixing up any drenches or tubing any horses that morning. He stated that he had been using different buckets while he was at Mr McLean’s stables, but did not mix up any drenches in them. He also stated that Glebe Run had a nick on his heel and that he had used a bucket and reddish brown rag to wash it up. He stated that this must have been what Mr McLean saw. Mr Weir invited the Stewards to examine Glebe Run’s heel.
25. The Stewards accepted as a fact that Glebe Run had a nicked heel. But even so, this still left Mr McLean’s evidence clearly at odds with Mr Weir’s.
26. Specifically, first of all, McLean was very clear about seeing Weir with one litre of a reddish liquid in a bucket.
27. Even if this was doubted, and McLean had somehow confused the sight of one litre of reddish liquid in a bucket with Weir washing Glebe Run’s nicked heel with plain water, then second of all, and very significantly, this still left McLean’s very specific evidence about the use of buckets in his stable that morning. I will repeat again what Mr McLean said about the buckets. Namely, that:
a) He had used all three buckets that morning for molasses;
b) He used them between 8am and 9am;
c) The liquid residue found in the buckets must have been placed in the buckets between 8am and 11am; and
d) That only Weir could have done this, because only he and McLean were at the stables during this time.
28. Given that two of the buckets we are talking about contained residue from a red drench mix, McLean’s evidence suggested Weir must have used two buckets to mix up the red drenches on race morning. This evidence, if accepted would very clearly put Mr Weir right in, if I can use that expression, as it would be a strange thing for drenches to be mixed up in a bucket without being used, or intended to be used. 
29. So, having gone through all the evidence on the day, it is apparent that prior to race 8 at Warrnambool, the Stewards were, in part, faced with one man’s word against another’s.
30. It should be noted that the decision the Stewards were faced with at the time was one of a preliminary nature. The decision was not whether any horse had in fact been stomach tubed, or even whether any person had a case to answer. The decision was whether the evidence at that stage was of sufficient concern to warrant the exclusion of Glebe Run from the race in accordance with the Stewards’ power to do so under AR.8(m).
31. In making this decision, the Stewards had to weigh up how likely it was that Mr McLean was deliberately incriminating Mr Weir in his evidence either to avoid drawing suspicion to himself, or for reasons unknown.
32. The Stewards also had to consider how likely it was that McLean was mistaken or confused about many significant matters in his evidence, all of which he had been quite specific about and most of which had stated repeatedly throughout the day.
33. In addition, the Stewards also had to consider the following relevant facts:
a) The fact the tubing equipment and drenching powders all belonged to Mr Weir;
b) The extremely suspicious circumstances surrounding the discovery of the tubing equipment and the drenching powders; and
c) Mr Weir’s unsatisfactory explanation for hiding the all the drenching gear (that is, that it was his idea to hide the gear and that he did so because he did not want to get Mr McLean in trouble).
34. Finally, having considered all of these matters, it is history now that the Stewards decided that the exclusion of Glebe Run from race 8 at Warrnambool on 3rd May 2006 was warranted and was necessary precaution given the evidence at the time.
35. As an addendum I note that samples were taken from 7 of Mr Weir’s runners on the day, but no sample was taken from Mr McLean’s runner in race 8, Major Big Time. On reflection, this was perhaps an oversight, though the decision was influenced very much by the fact that all of the drenching gear taken in to evidence on the day belonged to Mr Weir and also by the fact that Mr Weir gave evidence that he acted on his own in hiding the gear.
36. That covers the events of 3 May 2006 and I now turn to evidence that came to light subsequent to this day.
May to July 2006
37. On 18 May 2006, Mr Weir was interviewed by Mr Monaghan and Mr Dunn. In this interview he changed his earlier evidence that had clearly implied it had been his idea to hide the stomach tube and drenches upon the arrival of Monaghan and Dunn at McLean’s stables back on 3 May 2006. Weir instead stated that:
a) he told McLean when he noticed Monaghan and Dunn arrive;
b) McLean panicked and demanded that Weir hide the gear;
c) McLean pulled the main stable doors down while Weir buried the gear.
38. On 4 May 2006 the RASL laboratory reported that no prohibited substances were detected in blood samples that had been taken from Mr Weir’s runners on 3 May 2006. It was reported that Marinello King, the horse that Mr Weir took to the races immediately after the arrival of Monaghan and Dunn at McLean’s stables returned a TCO2 reading of 36.3mmol/L. The evidence was that this was an unusually high reading, although below the permissible threshold.
39. On 17 May 2006 the RASL laboratory also reported that no prohibited substances were detected in urine samples that had been taken from Mr Weir’s runners on 3 May 2006.
40. On 10 July 2006, the RASL laboratory made its final report in this matter. It reported that no prohibited substances were detected in any of the items taken into evidence at the stable inspection at McLean’s property on 3 May 2006. As noted earlier, the laboratory did confirm that the residue in Weir’s empty drench packets matched the liquid residue in two of McLean’s buckets and on Weir’s funnel. 
Inquiry on 25 July 2006
41. On 25 July 2006 the inquiry resumed. Mr Weir essentially re-iterated the evidence given on 3 May 2006, save for the part super ceded by his important correction of 18 May 2006 regarding the reason for him hiding the drenching gear under the shavings.
42. Mr McLean however, gave evidence that was quite different to his evidence on 3 May 2006. I propose to detail the main areas where his evidence changed.
43. First of all, rather than maintaining that Weir acted on his own in hiding the drenching gear, McLean agreed with Mr Weir’s revised account of how it came to be that the drenching gear was hidden under shavings in two separate boxes. In fact, he adopted Weir’s version of events completely. This is particularly concerning as it means that McLean has admitted to being less than truthful from the very outset of the stable inspection when he professed complete ignorance of the drenching gear found hidden under the shavings and Weir’s motives for concealing the items. For example, and this is all from the first five or six pages of the transcript:
a) After the tube is discovered he is asked if he had seen the tube before and he replied that he hadn’t;
b) He states that he noticed Weir hiding the tube there, but that he didn’t say anything to him because it wasn’t his business;
c) He states that he didn’t hear Monaghan and Dunn outside, because he thought it was his grandmother;
d) He states that the roller doors were down because of the wind;
e) He states that he didn’t see where the tube came from.
44. Much of this evidence was repeated before the Stewards at the race course later in the day.
45. The second area where McLean’s evidence changed significantly is in relation to the three buckets that were taken into evidence during the stable inspection. Rather than maintaining that he had used the buckets on race morning for molasses and that they were subsequently used by Mr Weir, McLean stated that he had been mistaken about this and that he had only used one of the buckets that morning.
46. This change in evidence is also troubling. During the stable inspection, McLean answered questions about his use of the buckets (that is, about the time he used them, what he used them for and where he left them) specifically and without being led (P-9, Ln 19-41 of stable inspection transcript read). He asserted very clearly that Weir was responsible for using the buckets after he had used them and also for the residue that was in them. Again, he asserted this without being led (P-17, Ln 4-20 of stable inspection transcript read).
47. Once more, McLean repeated this evidence very clearly and very specifically in the Stewards room later in the day (P-12, Ln 26-40 of race day inquiry transcript read) and also (P-13, Ln 15-37 of race day inquiry transcript read).
48. The third area where McLean’s evidence changed significantly was in relation to seeing Weir with one litre of reddish liquid in a bucket. McLean did maintain that he saw Weir with some liquid in a bucket, but it seems he is no longer sure about the colour of the liquid and whether it was a “mixture” or just water. McLean stated that he did not recall seeing Weir with a towel or rag, as Weir suggested, but he conceded that he was unclear on what he saw and he may have assumed the worse when he saw Weir with a bucket.
49. This change in evidence is also concerning, though not perhaps, when viewed on its own, as difficult to understand as the other two changes.
50. So, after the evidence given on 25 July 2006, what then is this inquiry left with?
51. As noted earlier, while there are several suspicious circumstances surrounding the events of 3 May 2006 that are relevant, the issues in this inquiry have largely centred on the word of one man against another. If Jarrod McLean’s evidence on 3 May 2006 could be accepted after being placed under proper scrutiny, Darren Weir would certainly find himself facing charges. However, as it has emerged, McLean has himself changed the most important parts of his evidence on that day. How exactly Mr McLean came to be mistaken about so many things is hard to fathom. The various explanations he has offered for his numerous errors (namely pressure, confusion and inexperience) have by and large failed to convince this panel. What is particularly contradictory to Mr McLean’s explanations is the fact that he misled Monaghan and Dunn, it seems, from almost the very moment they arrived at his premises in the morning and he continued to mislead them and the Stewards, in relation to certain matters at least, throughout the rest of the day. It is clear that McLean is a singularly unreliable witness.
52. The facts that have emerged in this matter arouse suspicion. Of that there is little doubt. The Stewards have not received anything like a satisfactory explanation as to why doors were locked and drenching gear hidden upon the arrival of two RVL officials. We do not know what happened in McLean’s stable prior to the doors finally being opened. However, suspicion is not the test for the laying of charges. This inquiry concerned whether any horses on Mr McLean’s property were stomach tubed on race day, 3 May 2006. Based on the evidence before us, the Stewards do not believe that there is a reasonable prospect of sustaining any charge to the required standard of proof.
53. Before concluding the matter for today, the Stewards do wish to comment on the conduct of Mr Weir and Mr McLean.
54. Mr Weir, regarding the extraordinary lengths you went to hide the drenching gear from Monaghan and Dunn, the Stewards find it remarkable and disappointing that an experienced trainer such as you would go along with such a ridiculous and half-baked plan.  Assuming your evidence about what actually occurred in the stable was accepted, this whole matter could have been avoided if you had not acted in such a foolhardy manner.  The Stewards also find it disappointing that when you had the opportunity to explain why you acted in this way on race day, instead of telling the whole truth, you offered a completely improbable explanation: that explanation being that you, an experienced trainer, clearly familiar with Stewards’ procedures and the conduct of stable inspections, decided to hide drenching gear of your own volition, because you didn’t wish to cause Mr McLean any “trouble”.  Perhaps this misleading evidence was itself designed also to keep Mr McLean out of trouble, but again we reiterate that you were a contributor to your own troubles on this day.
55. Mr McLean, I have already gone over the concerns the Stewards have about some of the evidence you have given in this inquiry. Unfortunately for you, your involvement in this matter is not over. It seems likely to the Stewards that charges are warranted in respect of some of your evidence. If this is the case it will be a matter for the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board to determine. In any event we will review the relevant evidence and you will be advised within
56. the next two weeks.