Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, has cracked down on steroids in all horse sports in the UAE by criminalising their import, sale, purchase and use — in the wake of the scandals around doping in his racing and endurance interests.

The decree of 23 May is effective immediately.

“I have always believed in the integrity of horseracing and all other horse sports,” said the Sheikh, whose wife Princess Haya was elected president of the FEI, which governs equestrian disciplines, on a clean sport ticket.

“Regrettably, one of my stables in Europe has recently fallen below the standards that I expect and will tolerate,” he said in a statement.

“As soon as the internal investigations are complete and the requisite pre-emptory rules are put in place, Godolphin will go from strength to strength and lead, once again, adherence to the highest standards in that gracious sport.”

Drugs bought online
Mahmood Al Zarooni, who trained for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation in Newmarket, was banned for eight years on 25 April, after 11 horses tested positive for banned anabolic steroids that month.

The use of steroids was previously legal in Dubai in racehorse training only.

In endurance — which is governed by the FEI — the FEI Tribunal hearings have revealed an accessible illegal supply of steroids across the UAE. Two cases involved a product known as “The Enhancer”, available online.

In 2011, a locum vet at Sheikh Mohammed’s Al Aaasfa endurance stables told the Tribunal that the steroid stanozolol was available on the black market.

The impact of Sheikh Mohammed’s intervention on endurance still depends on the diligence of local officials in Dubai, criticised in the damning representations of the Swiss Equestrian Federation.

Response unsatisfactory
The FEI’s reply to the Swiss is understood to have conveyed that, from next season, the two obligatory foreign judges and veterinary delegates at UAE three-star rides will be directly appointed by the FEI, rather than the local organisers.

But in a forthright statement, Charles Troillet of the Swiss federation (SEF)  said the FEI’s response had “not been satisfactory”.  The SEF had written again, he said “demanding that the FEI produce a concrete action plan” to show how it would deal with the “deplorable state of affairs” in endurance.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (30 May 2013)