London // Mahmoud Al Zarooni was handed an eight-year ban by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday after a three-member panel found the Godolphin trainer was in breach of three rules of racing, including doping.
During a hearing that stretched over four hours, Al Zarooni was charged for 11 horses returning positive tests at his Newmarket base, failure to keep medication records for 15 horses and conduct deemed prejudicial to the sport.
He cannot work at a British track until 2021.
“I accept that it was my responsibility to be aware of the rules regarding the use of prohibited substances in Britain,” Al Zarooni said in a statement, read by Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford.
“I can only apologise and repeat my statement earlier in the week, ‘I have made a catastrophic error’.”
The hearing found that Al Zarooni was aided by three others, two foremen and one vet’s assistant, and brought the anabolic steroids with him from the UAE two weeks before the Dubai World Cup last month.
The use of anabolic steroids is not illegal in Dubai, where Al Zarooni said he administered the drugs to around 10 horses during the winter, which have remained on Godolphin premises in the UAE.
“We are shocked and completely outraged by the actions he has taken,” Crisford said. “This is a terrible day for Godolphin and British racing and an awful situation we have found ourselves in.
“He has acted with awful recklessness and has caused tremendous damage, not only to Godolphin, but to British racing and for that we are deeply sorry, for he was out trainer.
“It will take a very long time for Godolphin to regain the confidence of the public.”
Crisford said that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Godolphin’s founder, “was completely unaware of this”.
In addition to Al Zarooni’s ban, all 15 horses that were administered anabolic steroids were banned from racing for six months.
Among them is Certify, who was widely considered one of the most likely winners of the English 1,000 Guineas, before the news broke on Monday, and Opinion Poll, the 2012 Dubai Gold Cup winner.
They and the other 13 horses will not be permitted to race until October 9, when the BHA is confident the banned substances will no longer be present in the bodies of the thoroughbreds. The suspension was imposed separately by the disciplinary panel, comprising Matthew Lohn, Hopper Cavendish and Edward Dorrell.
“The length of suspension reflects the period beyond which the BHA is confident that the horses in question can have derived no performance-related benefit from the administration of these prohibited substances,” Jamie Stier, director of raceday operation and regulation for the BHA, said.
The BHA has agreements in place with racing jurisdictions around the world but it has no power to enforce the ban should any governing body consider an application from the trainer.
The Emirates Racing Authority are one such body but it is believed that they would not allow Al Zarooni, a 37-year-old Emirati, to train thoroughbreds in the UAE.
Paul Bittar, the chief executive of the BHA, called for more international cooperation in the wake of the doping scandal.
“This case has served to highlight that there are inconsistencies across international racing jurisdictions regarding what substances are permitted to be used in training,” he said.
“While around the world, horse racing bodies quite rightly adopt a zero-tolerance policy to the presence of anabolic steroids when carrying out post-race testing, the approach is not so consistent for horses in training.”
“In an age of increasing international travel and competition we will put the subject on the agenda for discussion with our international colleagues.
“This is only the end of the beginning.”
Al Zarooni wore a tan suit, light blue shirt and a burgundy tie, as he arrived at the BHA’s headquarters in High Holborn and was ushered through a media crowd by Crisford.
Such was the intensity of interest that one cameraman suffered a gash to his face as the Godolphin duo snaked their way 50 metres from their vehicle and through a media gauntlet.