VALE – Dr John Vine 

Industry News October 10, 2023
NATA team

5 September 1948 – 8 September 2023

Dr John Vine worked as a NATA Technical Assessor for 30 years conducting over 100 assessments across sports doping in animals and humans and workplace drug testing. 

In 1988 he was appointed to the position of Manager and Official Analyst of Racing Analytical Services Ltd (RASL) in October 1988 – where he was also a NATA Authorised Representative. 

RASL was established in 1988 as a result of the report of a Working Party established by the Minister for Sport and Recreation to examine the provision of drug testing services to the Victorian racing industry.  John was given the task of setting up a new racing laboratory from the ground up, which included the refurbishment of existing government laboratories in the Melbourne CBD, employing staff and purchasing equipment. 

The new RASL Board’s decision to appoint John was an inspired one. John had been Manager of the Mass Spectrometry Unit in the Department of Pharmacy at Sydney University since 1974, and as such, was an expert in mass spectrometry and had an extensive research background. 

Over the next 23 years, with John at the helm, RASL developed a reputation for excellence in all aspects of drug detection – both racing and human, and RASL became the largest racing laboratory in Australia under his guidance. 

The list of RASL’s achievements during his time as Laboratory Director are extensive. Some of these include: 

  • First MSMS installed in any Australian Racing Laboratory in 1989. 
  • Mobile laboratory built to provide pre-race testing to the Victorian Racing codes in 1990. 
  • TCO2 testing commenced in 1991. 
  • RASL accredited by NATA in December 1992. 
  • RASL moves into new $1.56 million laboratory in Flemington in 1995. 
  • Victorian Racing codes agree to RASL’s Research and equipment funding proposal in 1996.  
  • John was awarded the AORC Award in 2000. 
  • RASL facilitates the production of TCO2 certified reference material in 2002 – now used worldwide. 
  • John Vine is elected AORC President in 2005 – the first for an Australian 
  • New mobile laboratory commissioned in 2006, which included an LCMS 
  • In 2008 RASL develops a method for hydrocortisone hemi-succinate 
  • In 2009 RASL was the first laboratory in Australia to be accredited by NATA for human oral fluid analysis 
  • In 2011 John Vine develops method for the detection of synthetic cannabinoids in human urine and is the first laboratory in Australia to be accredited for investigative testing. 
  • In 2012 the Victorian Government agrees to fund John Vine’s proposal for the detection of new drugs, bioengineered drugs, and genetic manipulation research – the Biological Research Unit (BRU) was established. 

He made over 40 presentations at conferences both here and abroad, published over 50 papers in international journals, was a referee for numerous journals and rapidly gained the respect of all his peers. 

John quicky gained a reputation as the best scientific expert witness in the country, who the racing authorities were glad to have on their side. His extensive scientific knowledge, ability to think on his feet, and not getting ruffled by opposition expert witnesses and barristers was something to behold, for those who had the privilege of watching and listening to him. He gave expert evidence in over 300 stewards inquires and racing appeal Board hearings and gained the respect of all the racing appeals judges. 

When John retired in 2012, he was not lost to RASL. He stayed on for 2 days per week as our Research and Scientific Consultant until he became ill in March this year.  That says it all – science was his life….it was not work to him – it was his passion.   

He was a great mentor to me as I took on the role of Laboratory Director, but also to countless staff who benefited from his wise counsel. 

RASL completed the construction of a new mass spectrometry laboratory in 2020.  The RASL Board unanimously agreed to name this laboratory after John in November 2021.  The plaque reads:  This laboratory is named in honour of Dr John Vine, RASL’s founding Laboratory Director (1988 – 2012). John’s leadership, integrity and expertise in mass spectrometry was fundamental in establishing RASL’s worldwide reputation for excellence in all aspects of drug testing. 

John never showed his emotions that much; however, he was clearly chuffed at this honour. As the events have subsequently unfolded, I am so glad we bestowed this honour on him as it was well deserved. 

I sent a group email via RCHEM to all his racing chemist colleagues, racing clients and anyone else I could think of who had dealt with John. 

The response was overwhelming, all extremely sad to hear of his passing, and extremely complimentary with their comments. 

  • Greatly missed 
  • Outstanding racing chemist 
  • Immeasurable contribution to racing chemistry 
  • Great integrity  
  • Fountain of knowledge 
  • Extremely helpful 
  • A true gentleman. I think that says it all! 

NATA offers its sincere condolences to John’s family.