WA harness racing officials have rejected calls from the Australian code's most prominent identities to lift a worldwide racetrack ban on Lindsay Harper and have no plans to ever let the State's one-time pacing king back into the sport.
Despite Mr Harper having served a five-year disqualification over the alleged 2003 bashing of farrier Adrian Taylor and five years for a subsequent breach of his ban by briefly working in the US trotting industry as he battled financial ruin and suicidal thoughts, Racing and Wagering WA last week issued him a warning-off notice that prevents him from taking any part in the industry he dominated early last decade.
"I lie awake some nights just thinking how I've ended up where I have," Mr Harper said.
Breaking his silence in an exclusive interview with _The West Australian _, the 54-year-old continues to deny any involvement in Mr Taylor's assault, which was alleged to have taken place on his Martin property. He has never been formally interviewed by police over the attack after Mr Taylor declined to push for assault charges saying he feared further retribution.
The incident occurred after $70,000 was stolen from Mr Harper's home. He reported the loss of the money, which he said was the proceeds of horse sales, to police and alleged Mr Taylor was the culprit. The cash was never recovered.
RWWA confirmed that it had no evidence Mr Harper had assaulted Mr Taylor, but followed the Racing Penalties Appeal Tribunal's 2007 assertion that he had been present and involved in the alleged bashing.
Mr Harper said he was shocked by his warning-off notice, which came as he was preparing to return to the industry when his 10-year ban expired on January 4. He had gathered glowing references of support for his comeback from some of Australian harness racing's biggest names and presented them to RWWA officials.
They included leviathan WA-based owner Mick Lombardo, Victorian legend Brian Gath, Bill Horn, who was the former trainer of legendary WA pacer Village Kid, and reigning Victorian metropolitan trainer of the year Lance Justice. Former WA Nationals leader Max Trenorden also wrote to RWWA in 2011 asking the governing body to reduce Mr Harper's sentence.
Several other senior pacing insiders contacted by _The West Australian _ this week believed Mr Harper had served a fair suspension.
But after a meeting with RWWA racing integrity general manager Denis Borovica and chief harness racing steward Bill Delaney on December 23, where he was joined by lawyer Tom Percy, Mr Harper was informed on New Year's Eve that his stint on the outer had been extended indefinitely.
"Disbelief, really . . . it's probably been my emotion through the whole 10 years of this," he said.
"It started as a nightmare and it continues. Shattered, devastated, I didn't really think this would happen. I've got no police record, I'm not a bad person . . . I think I've got morals and integrity.
"I was leading reinsman the last four years I was driving, I've set records, I've been good for the industry, I think. (But) I've gone from the top of the world to the bottom of the heap.
"Not even being allowed to work with the horses, it's like someone taking your oxygen away. It's my life, I've got nothing else. When I finally climbed the ladder to the top it got taken away, which still hurts today."
RWWA said it would not review Mr Harper's indefinite ban unless he launched an appeal. _The West Australian _understands Mr Percy is almost certain to take the case back to RPAT after RWWA reveals, by the end of this month, its reasons for extending the disqualification beyond his original penalty.
Stewards' correspondence seen by _The West Australian _consistently assesses Mr Harper's original five-year ban and consequent five-year extension for his US misdemeanour as an "appropriate penalty".
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Harper said he had never hidden his disqualification from US Trotting Association officials, but RWWA accused him of falsifying documents by not admitting the issue when filling in forms to become a groom. He said he had been on antidepressants and under medical supervision for a three-year period when he fought RWWA rulings through the middle of last decade and also denied rumours about him which had long circulated within pacing circles, including unproven accusations of race rigging, systematic doping of his horses or being associated with bikies.
"I don't drug my horses, I don't pull them up, I just do my best," Mr Harper said.
"All the stories about bikies and drugs and all the other s..t, if any of that was true, 10 years later it would have been proven by now. There's nothing to back up the baseless theories of what they've accused me of or what they threw at me."
Mr Harper worked in the industry for decades before becoming WA harness racing's undisputed champion on a record-breaking spree with 240 wins in the 2001-02 season.
Now as his sons Donald and Kyle carve out the early part of their respective pacing careers, their father can only watch on television.
Kyle, 23, will pilot Bettors Fire as favourite for tomorrow night's annual Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park.
It was a race his father won with Havago in 1997 just hours after winning a Supreme Court stay of proceedings over a lifetime ban, following a charge of being in possession of 14 prohibited drugs. The charge was quashed the next year by the Supreme Court.
Kyle last month started a Facebook petition to support his father's fight and attracted 160 "likes".
"As much as it's been hard on him, me and my brother have had to go through it from day one with him," he said.
"To see someone who you love and who was a champion of what he did to be brought down to that level is just very hard. I was looking forward to the disqualification being up so Dad could come back . . . he's my idol."
RWWA said this week the ruling to extend Mr Harper's ban had been based on his alleged role in the bashing, his decision to gain work with the USTA and his past history in the sport.
The provided past history, all of it dating back 20 years or more, consisted of two convictions for his horses returning positive swabs and one of not allowing his horse to run on its merits.
I've got no police record, I'm not a bad person. "Lindsay Harper