Seven plead not guilty to systematic horse doping, Smerdon does not offer plea

Related Story: Leaked evidence brief alleges doping before 2015 Melbourne Cup

High profile trainer Robert Smerdon did not enter a plea at today's directions hearing into Racing Victoria doping charges, but the seven other trainers and stable hands all entered not guilty pleas.

The group who all have links to Aquanita Racing were charged with a total of 271 offences dating back to 2010, over alleged systematic doping.

Smerdon has been charged with 116 of the offences, but did not enter a plea at today's directions hearing before the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

Fellow trainers Tony Vasil, Liam Birchley, Trent Pennuto and Stuart Webb all entered not guilty pleas as did stable hands Daniel Garland, Greg and Denise Nelligan.

Racing and Appeals Disciplinary Board chairman John Bowman said the recent leaks of the Steward's court books to the media were "disappointing" but would not prevent a fair hearing taking place.

Bowman said there was no new information revealed in the leaked text messages, and the leak would not impact the hearings because it was not a jury trial.

The charges came after a four-month investigation into alleged doping, all linked to one stable.

The messages included in the brief will be used to allege even Australia's most famous race, the Melbourne Cup, was targeted.

They appear to show trainers and stable hands allegedly planning to use banned race-day treatments such as sodium bicarbonate.

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