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Harness Racing Star Matt Anderson Banned For Six Months Over Ecstasy Deal, Refusing To Answer Investigators' MDMA Questions

Harness Racing Star Matt Anderson Banned For Six Months Over Ecstasy Deal, Refusing To Answer Investigators' MDMA Questions

Harness Racing Star Matt Anderson Banned For Six Months Over Ecstasy Deal, Refusing To Answer Investigators' MDMA Questions

Harness Racing Star Matt Anderson Banned For Six Months Over Ecstasy Deal, Refusing To Answer Investigators' MDMA Questions

Matt Anderson has been handed a six-month disqualification from harness racing.

A former New Zealand representative and national premiership-winning harness racing driver has been banned for six months over an ecstasy drug deal involving other drivers.

Matthew Anderson, known as Matt, supplied the Class B drug to two "prominent harness reinsmen" and refused to answer Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) investigators’ questions into the matter.

Anderson was discharged without conviction from the Christchurch District Court in December 2019 after earlier admitting one charge of possessing MDMA, known as ecstasy, for supply, and two charges of supplying the same class B drug, all in 2018. Other charges against him had earlier been dropped.

Jamie Searle/Stuff

Matt Anderson won the national junior drivers' premiership in the 2017-2018 season.

When he was discharged without conviction, Christchurch District Court Judge Raoul Neave, who refused final name suppression, said Anderson would have immediately been disqualified from even going onto a racecourse for two years if he had been convicted – an outcome out of all proportion to the offences.

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He acknowledged Anderson's case would go before the RIU.

The charging documents, a redacted summary of facts and the pre-sentence report were handed over to the RIU by the courts. The RIU laid two charges that resulted in Anderson appearing before a Judicial Control Authority (JCA) committee of Murray McKechnie (chair) and Professor Geoff Hall.

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Matt Anderson is a highly successful harness racing driver.

Anderson was charged by the RIU with supplying two Harness Racing New Zealand licensed drivers with a Class B controlled drug (ecstasy) and being found in possession of Class B (ecstasy). The charges relate to the police charges and are acts that a Judicial Committee deems detrimental to the interests of harness racing.

Stuff understands much of the evidence against Anderson was gathered from covert surveillance as part of Operation Inca.

The second charge from the RIU was for refusing to supply information to RIU investigators, deemed to be more serious than the first charge.

The result of last month’s JCA hearing was made public this week.

Anderson told Stuff on Thursday he had no comment on the disqualification and would seek legal advice before deciding on the possibility of an appeal.

Anthony Phelps/Stuff

Matt Anderson has won 181 races in his driving career.

Anderson’s ban comes just 10 days after another Canterbury trainer, Nigel McGrath, was handed down an eight-year disqualification by the JCA on three charges of attempting to administer a prohibited substance on a raceday, refusing to supply information to a racecourse inspector, and obstructing a racecourse inspector during an investigation. Those charges were unrelated to Operation Inca.

The two harness racing drivers Anderson supplied the drugs to have name suppression due to ongoing criminal court proceedings.

Anderson, who represented New Zealand in the Australasian Young Drivers' Championship back in 2016, won the national junior drivers' premiership in the 2017/2018 season.

Stuff

Matt Anderson was discharged without conviction on drugs charges at the Christchurch District Court last year.

Within harness racing circles, the 27-year-old is regarded as an immense driving talent and he has also started a successful training career.

When interviewed by the RIU's manager of integrity assurance Neil Grimstone and senior racing investigator Simon Irving on January 27 of this year, Anderson, under instructions from his counsel, Allister Davis, refused to answer questions relating to the drug dealing and alleged taking.

Transcripts of the interview appeared in the JCA's written decision.

“If he answers them he’s in breach of the suppression order,” Davis told the RIU investigators.

“He’s not obliged to self-incriminate either. He’s under advice,” Davis said.

Anthony Phelps/Stuff

Matt Anderson's driving talents are highly regarded in harness racing circles.

Grimstone then asked: "In your probation report it talks about you using ecstasy whilst trying to obtain the junior apprentice of the year on a number of occasions. Is that correct?"

“No comment,” Anderson said.

Grimstone then asked: "And that you'd obtained your MDMA through an associate and that it was the only way you would be able to function at the time and create some form of normality, is that correct?"

“No comment,” Anderson replied.

Irving then asked: "If I was to direct you to submit to a drug test, how would you go?"

"Pass," Anderson said.

Irving then pressed further: "If I was to direct you to submit a hair sample that could date back to a year, how would you go?"

"Pass," Anderson replied.

Grimstone told the JCA committee the January interview was terminated because it was "getting nowhere" and that he and Irving were getting "stonewalled".

The RIU said it had not been able to interview the two drivers with name suppression as it could compromise the ongoing criminal proceedings.

Following a race meeting at Winton on March 24, 2018, Anderson and the two drivers with name suppression travelled to Dunedin together where Anderson supplied the pair with an unknown amount of the Class B controlled drug MDMA.

The RIU claimed it was highly likely that the drug was taken that evening by all three persons but acknowledged there was no direct proof of that.

The trio all drove at another meeting at Waimate on March 25.

Davis argued that the JCA committee did not have jurisdiction to act given the supply occurred in a private setting away from races or race meetings and Anderson acted as "a civilian" and was in "his down time".

But the committee disagreed.

"It cannot be realistic to suggest that objectionable behaviour can only happen on racecourses or at race meetings or around stables," the JCA's written decision said.

It also disagreed on the name suppression argument mounted by Davis for why Anderson would not reveal who the drivers were, because it considered the RIU had a legitimate need to know the information.

"The link between Mr Anderson’s offending and the integrity of the conduct of the harness code is self-evident. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the information that was being sought by the RIU would have reached the public domain," the JCA's written decision said.

The RIU submitted for a disqualification of between 12 to 18 months but the JCA committee handed down the six-month disqualification.

The disqualification will come into effect from August 1.

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