LONDON: A leading trainer for Godolphin was banned for eight years on Thursday for his part in a major doping scandal that has rocked British horse racing.
The British Horseracing Authority handed the suspension to Mahmood Al-Zarooni at a disciplinary hearing after he admitted to giving 15 horses anabolic steroids at his stables in Newmarket, England.
All 15 horses were banned from racing for six months.
Al-Zarooni was charged with violating multiple rules related to banned substances, as well as failing to keep medication records and with conduct prejudicial to the sport.
“We believe that the eight-year disqualification issued to Mahmood Al-Zarooni ... 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 program,” BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said in a statement.
The banned horses include Certify, who had been the favorite for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket next month before being pulled out of the race on Monday.
The scandal has already caused Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the head of Godolphin and ruler of Dubai, to lock down Al-Zarooni’s Moulton Paddocks stables in Newmarket, and order a round of blood tests for all his horses.
A mass media scrum hit Al-Zarooni when he arrived at BHA’s headquarters in central London with Simon Crisford, the racing manager of Godolphin — the most illustrious operation in horse racing.
Al-Zarooni, who represented himself at the hearing, said Monday he deeply regretted making a “catastrophic error,” saying the horses he doped weren’t racing at the time so he “did not realize that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing.”
At a routine visit of Al-Zarooni’s stables on April 9, the BHA tested 45 horses. Seven tested positive for ethylestranol and four for stanozolol — the same steroid found in the urine of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson in his positive test at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Al-Zarooni has told investigating officers that he administered four more horses with the prohibited substances, but they weren’t tested when the BHA visited the stables.
“The relevant rules in this case are explicit in that the use of anabolic steroids in horses in the care of a licensed trainer is prohibited and that strict liability for everything administered to horses while they are in training lies with the trainer,” Bittar said. “The BHA’s investigation has established that the substances in question were administered on the instruction of Mahmood Al Zarooni.”
Sheik Mohammed said Wednesday he is “appalled and angered” at what has happened.