A report by Lord Stevens, former head of London’s Metropolitan Police, found no evidence that Britain’s biggest racehorse owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had any knowledge of drug infractions within his equine operations.
The sheikh, who is the ruler of Dubai, commissioned Stevens to conduct an international review after a thoroughbred trainer within his Godolphin racing operation, Mahmood Al Zarooni, was found to have doped 15 horses with anabolic steroids.
There was later a seizure of drugs on a jet at Stansted Airport and at Moorley Farm, comprising injectables, anaesthetics, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics.
The inquiry highlighted the need for stronger management, clearer accountability and better internal communication.
The inquiry was conducted under the auspices of global advisory firm, Quest, of which Lord Stevens is chairman.
He found that Al Zarooni acted alone in procuring and transporting drugs to Britain for use in the thoroughbreds, which concurs with the findings of the British Horseracing Authority. Al Zarooni received an eight-year ban last year from the authority.
He found that the seizures at Stansted Airport and at Moorley Farm resulted from “management failings, insufficient oversight, and complacency within the organisation”. Those responsible failed to take steps to strictly adhere to British regulations regarding the transport of veterinary medicinal products.
He noted that the seized veterinary products were widely used and considered safe. Although improperly imported to Britain, they were not “illegal”. Equivalent compounds were sold in Britain under different brand names, he said.
They were brought in as a contingency supply to ensure necessary and emergency medicines were available as needed, Stevens found.
Stevens said he found no evidence of any link between the Al Zarooni case and the later seizures at Stansted Airport and Moorley Farm.
The report made recommendations, focusing on the need for stronger management, clearer accountability and better internal communication within the sheikh’s equestrian organisation. Proposals include:
- The establishment of an internal compliance unit which will operate independently, with the power to visit and examine any part of the sheikh’s operation. This unit will have access to veterinary personnel to assist, advise and conduct testing as necessary.
- An independent consultant to review and oversee the horse transport process.
- The creation of a shared services department to handle audit and compliance, purchasing, transport and other common functions for Godolphin, Darley and Meydan operations.
- Establishment of a person-in-charge system to ensure accountability for the purchase and shipment of veterinary medicine.
Lord Stevens commented: “Although HH Sheikh Mohammed’s equestrian operations are unusual in their size and scope, our review has highlighted the complexities of a regulatory framework that is a challenge for the entire equestrian industry.
“Throughout our investigation of the three entirely separate incidents, we have established that no evidence whatsoever exists to suggest that HH Sheikh Mohammed had any knowledge of the purchase, transportation or use of any unregulated medicines.
“Equally, neither did he have any knowledge of the illegal activities of Mahmood Al Zarooni.
“Proposing global solutions to reduce confusion and increase compliance with the regulations governing the transport of veterinary medicine is beyond Quest’s remit.
“However, in our discussions with HH Sheikh Mohammed, he agreed to create a task force of experts to suggest ways to make it easier for all affected stakeholders in the equestrian industry to comply with the regulations.
“He will ask the task force to consider the creation of a global database containing country-by-country information on registered products that could be easily accessible to those seeking to transport veterinary medicine.”
“I am delighted that HH Sheikh Mohammed has asked Quest to extend its remit to oversee this effort.”