Britain’s racing authorities have tightened the rules around banned substances following the so-called Sungate affair.
The British Horseracing Authority announced a rule change on Wednesday which means that a trainer may be charged if certain prohibited substances are administered to horses in their care or control, without the need for a positive sample to have been obtained.
The amendment to the rules, approved by the authority’s board after consulting with the National Trainers Federation and the Racehorse Owners Association, resulted from an investigation into the use of the veterinary product Sungate, which contains the anabolic steroid stanozolol.
The imported product is used in the treatment of joint conditions.
During the investigation it became apparent Sungate had been given to several horses. However, no charges could be brought because no positive samples were obtained.
The authority also concluded that there was no evidence that the trainers concerned had acted in a manner prejudicial to racing.
“The Sungate investigation highlighted a scenario which was not sufficiently or appropriately protected against by the Rules of Racing,” the authority’s director of integrity, Adam Brickell, said.
“The fact that charges could not be brought against trainers even though there was evidence that prohibited substances had been administered to horses in their care or control clearly needed to be addressed.
“Under the revised rules, if we have sufficient evidence that certain prohibited substances have been administered to horses in the care or control of a trainer, we are now in a position to take action.”
The new rule comes in to effect on December 1.
The Sungate inquiry, which concluded in August, arose after the authority became aware of the nature of Sungate and its use on horses in training following a visit to Gerard Butler’s yard last February as part of its testing-in-training sampling programme, from which nine horses produced positive tests for stanozolol.
It became apparent that a veterinary practice, which had legally imported Sungate under licence into Britain, was prescribing this product and had recommended its initial administration to horses in training.
The authority met with representatives of the veterinary practice in question. As a result, the authority became aware that Butler was not the only trainer to whom it was recommended that Sungate be administered to horses in the trainers’ care.
The authority subsequently identified and met with 38 trainers known to use the same veterinary practice.
The investigation identified that 43 horses from nine trainers had been treated with Sungate by veterinary surgeons and on veterinary advice since early 2010.
These administrations were recorded in the medication records required to be kept by trainers in accordance with the rules, and in the clinical histories of the horses which were obtained, with the trainers’ consent, from the veterinary practice.
The authority decided against bringing charges, with Brickell noting at the time: “We have concluded that there would no reasonable prospect of a disciplinary panel finding that these trainers have breached the Rules of Racing.
“Under the current Rules of Racing, in the absence of any positive samples, charges could only be brought in cases such as this if there is evidence that the trainer concerned has acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct, or good reputation of the sport.
“In these cases there was no such evidence. This is because the nine trainers in question only allowed their horses to be administered with the product on the advice of – and by – veterinary surgeons to treat orthopaedic conditions.”
However, action proceeded against Butler, whose horses tested positive as a result of Sungate use. The disciplinary panel has heard the case and its decision is awaited.