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RVL should have stood down Oliver sooner
By Melissa Jenkins
14:50 AEST Wed Jun 26 2013

Jockey Damien Oliver should have been stood down sooner while under investigation for betting on a rival horse, the Victorian racing integrity commissioner has found.

But commissioner Sal Perna found no evidence of any deal between Oliver and Racing Victoria that he could ride through the spring racing carnival.

Oliver was banned for 10 months in November 2012 over a $10,000 bet he placed on rival horse Miss Octopussy in a race at Moonee Valley two years earlier.

Racing Victoria allowed him to ride throughout the 2012 spring carnival while he was under investigation.

Oliver won three Group One races, including the Victoria Derby, and finished 11th aboard Americain in the Melbourne Cup before being stood down on November 13.

Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna said Oliver should have been stood down sooner and new stand-down provisions should be implemented.

"I am of the view that the decision taken not to do so until Oliver made admissions was too conservative and cautious in the circumstances," he said in a report tabled to the Victorian parliament on Tuesday.

Perna said the stewards' power to stand a person down before charges were determined was unclear and should be changed.

He said he found no evidence to support speculation Oliver had an agreement with Racing Victoria that he could ride through the Melbourne carnival, or receive a limited suspension to ensure his participation the following spring.

"I have no evidence to support the speculation that the Oliver inquiry was handled unprofessionally, incompetently, inefficiently or in a protracted manner," he said.

Perna also found that the penalty handed to Oliver was "reasonable in the circumstances" despite public concerns it was too lenient.

While RV says it welcomes the report, it disagrees that Oliver should have been stood down earlier.

RV chief executive Bernard Saundry said if Oliver was stood down before the spring carnival, he could have had the decision overturned on appeal.

"Such a decision would have also carried a substantial risk of him escaping conviction," Saundry said in a statement.

But Saundry backed the rest of the report.

"We fully support the Commissioner's recommendations in respect to improving the lawful and effective sharing of information with Victoria Police; establishing a dedicated sports-related crime or corruption investigation resource with Victoria Police; and extending the Commissioner's investigative powers."

Oliver met with Racing Victoria officials last October over misconduct allegations on the condition the discussions would take place "without prejudice".

Mr Perna also called for better information sharing between Victoria Police and the racing industry.

Premier Denis Napthine, who as racing minister ordered the commissioner's review, said the government supported Mr Perna's recommendations in principle.

"We are examining and we will be implementing changes to adopt those recommendations," he said.