British racing authorities have another steroid headache on their plate, likely to further dent confidence in the industry in the wake of the Mahmood Al Zarooni scandal.
Al Zarooni was banned for eight years late last week after he admitted to a “catastrophic error” in administering anabolic steroids to 15 horses. The animals, part of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s prestigious Godolphin racing enterprise, were being rested at the time.
Two banned steroids, ethylestranol and stanozolol, were detected in the testing of 11 horses trained by Al Zarooni at his yard in Newmarket. He admitted that four other horses not tested by authorities had also received the banned drugs.
Now, it emerges that another Newmarket yard is currently at the centre of a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) investigation.
Trainer Gerard Butler told The Independent that, in what he described as an “unpardonable misjudgment”, four of his horses had been treated with a veterinary product on the advice of his vet. It was a joint treatment licensed for use in the European Union which contains stanozolol.
The BHA confirmed some of Butler’s horses returned positive results after random tests in February and it is trying to establish how many horses have been affected, with Butler suggesting other yards in Newmarket may have used the product.
“It is the general policy of the BHA not to comment publicly regarding ongoing investigations or speculation surrounding potential investigations,” the racing body said in a statement.
“However, in light of reports and speculation, and because of recent events regarding horses formerly trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, it is felt necessary to confirm that a separate investigation is being held into a number of positive samples obtained from horses at Gerard Butler’s yard, following a testing in training visit on February 20.
“While conscious of the need not to prejudice the outcome of the current inquiry, the investigation has established that the source of the positive samples was a veterinary product, licensed in the EU and legally imported for use by a veterinary practice, the initial administration of which was recommended by a vet.
“This investigation remains ongoing and a number of other parties have been and will be interviewed, including representatives of the veterinary practice in question.”
“Immediately following the results of the testing in training, the BHA, in conjunction with the National Trainers Federation, notified trainers that the product in question contains an anabolic steroid and should not be used on any horse in training.”
The federation, which represents the interests of British handlers, confirmed it had told its members of the issue last month.
The federation said: “In responding to a report in the Independent newspaper about positive samples taken by the BHA from horses trained by Gerard Butler in Newmarket, the National Trainers Federation is mindful that the investigation is continuing.
“Therefore, other than to confirm that at the BHA’s request, we notified our members in March this year to avoid using a specific veterinary product because it contains an anabolic steroid, we will not be saying more at this time.”
Butler told The Independent: “I have been totally candid throughout, and it was I who told the BHA that I had treated four colts in December and January.
“And I must emphasise I was advised in good faith by my vets. It was an unpardonable misjudgment, purely to cut corners in what is a very expensive treatment. I have been very uncomfortable over the past few days, hearing and reading about the Al Zarooni case. I feel people need to know about what has happened in my yard.”
Butler told The Independent he believed horses at other Newmarket yards may also have been given the product.