Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni has been banned for eight years in one of the biggest doping scandals in British horseracing.

His disqualification was announced following a disciplinary hearing yesterday (Thursday 25 April) at the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) headquarters in London.

Eleven horses trained by Al Zarooni tested positive for anabolic steroids ethylestranol and stanozolol during a “testing in training” programme at the Newmarket trainer’s Moulton Paddocks yard on 9 April. The trainer later admitted to giving steroids to a further four horses who were not tested at the time. All 15 horses, including leading 1000 Guineas contender Certify, have been suspended from racing for six months by the BHA.

“This is a terrible situation and a terrible day for Godolphin,” said Godolphin’s Simon Crisford. “He has acted with awful recklessness and caused tremendous damage to Godolphin and to British racing, and for that we are sorry. We are shocked and outraged by his actions.”

Godolphin owner, and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, said he was “appalled and angered” to learn that one of his stables had “violated Godolphin’s ethical standards and the rules of British racing”.

Al Zarooni admitted he had made a “catastrophic error”.

The drugs were given to the horses in mid-March. They were reportedly sourced from Dubai, where steroids are permitted in training, as long as they are not in the horse’s system on a raceday.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate confirmed to H&H that neither drug, nor any anabolic steriod, is authorised for use on horses in Britain.

Al Zarooni — who has won two British Classics — claimed he was “unaware” he was breaching the Rules of British racing.

Three other employees, an assistant vet and two yard foremen, are now under review by Godolphin.

In a statement after the hearing Mahmood Al Zarooni said: “First and foremost, I would like to apologise to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed as well as to all those involved with Godolphin and the public who follow British racing.

“I accept that it was my responsibility to be aware of the rules regarding prohibited substances in Britain. I can only apologise and repeat what I said in my statement earlier in the week — I have made a catastrophic error.”

Paul Bittar of the BHA said further tests were yet to be carried out and that the intregity of the sport was the utmost importance.

“We believe that the disqualification will serve to reassure the public, and the sport’s participants, that use of performance-enhancing substances in British Racing will not be tolerated and that the sport has in place a robust and effective anti-doping and medication control programme,” he said.
 
For more on the doping scandal don’t miss Thursday’s (2 May) issue of Horse & Hound.