LEADING racehorse trainers Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh and Danny O'Brien face up to three-year disqualifications after runners from their Melbourne stables tested positive to the banned drug cobalt chloride.
The trio have protested their innocence and said they would co-operate fully with the Victorian Racing Integrity Services Department's investigation.
Five horses - Lidari (Moody) Magicool (Kavanagh) and Bondeiger, Caravan Rolls On and De Little Engine (O'Brien) - returned positive tests to excessive levels of cobalt which produces similar effects to the blood booster EPO - a drug which has plagued endurance sports such as cycling for years.
The samples were taken during the Melbourne Spring Carnival and the positive results confirmed after tests in Perth and Hong Kong.
The VRISD will interview the three trainers, their stable staff, stable vets, strappers and handlers in coming days, and also carry out exhaustive investigations into the feed and drug treatment regimes at each of the stables.
The three trainers will be allowed to continue preparing horses for their owners until the inquiry is completed.
Moody, who prepared champion mare Black Caviar in her unbeaten 25-win career in Australia and England, said he was "devastated" by the news, while Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Kavanagh said he was in a state of shock.
"I've always placed great emphasis on integrity and operating within the rules of racing," Kavanagh said.
"I'm co-operating fully with the Racing Victoria Integrity Services Department to investigate how this could occur and hopefully we will resolve the matter as soon as possible.
"I have a responsibility to my valued clients and staff to run my stable in a professional manner and I believe I have always done that."