Mahmood Al Zarooni has been disqualified for eight years by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority after admitting administering anabolic steroids to horses in his care.
The Godolphin trainer said he had made a “catastrophic error” in using the banned drugs on a number of runners in his yard, including former Qipco 1000 Guineas favourite Certify.
Al Zarooni was called before the BHA at a hastily-arranged hearing on Thursday afternoon after 11 horses returned positive samples for ethylestranol and stanozolol following a random testing at his Newmarket yard earlier this month.
Further admissions were made by Al Zarooni to the BHA this week surrounding four other horses that had not been tested.
The case, widely regarded to be the most serious doping scandal in recent British racing history, has already caused Godolphin principal Sheikh Mohammed to lock down Al Zarooni's stables, saying he was ``appalled and angered'' by events.
Al Zarooni, 37, was officially charged with rule breaches related to prohibited substances, duty to keep medication records and conduct prejudicial to racing.
Earlier in the day, the fifteen horses were banned from running for six months from April 9.
Paul Bittar, chief executive of the BHA, said in a statement: ``We believe that it is recognised by all who follow our sport that the circumstances in this particular case are exceptional, not only on account of the profile of the owner in question, but also the number and calibre of the horses involved.
“However, we also believe the outcome is an endorsement for the effectiveness of British Racing’s dope testing programme.
“On April 9 representatives of the BHA visited the yard of Mahmood Al Zarooni and took samples from 45 horses as part of our testing in training sampling programme.
“As soon as the nature and number of positives became apparent, we recognised that there were a number of challenges for the sport and the BHA, initially in the very short term.
“The first and immediate priority was to establish the facts as to how the prohibited substances came to be present in the horses’ samples.
“Secondly, in view of the potential repercussions for the sport and the profile of the races for which some of the horses held entries, it was in the public’s interest, as well as that of BHA and Godolphin, to progress the disciplinary procedures as quickly as possible.
“Both of these objectives have now been met and I would like to publicly thank the staff at the BHA and the team at HFL Sport Science who have worked around the clock on the case to achieve the outcome of today’s Disciplinary Panel hearing.
“This rapid resolution would also not have been possible without the full cooperation of Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed.
“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.
“The BHA’s investigation has established that the substances in question were administered on the instruction of Mahmood Al Zarooni.
“The full details of this will be formally addressed in the Disciplinary Panel’s findings, to be published in due course and once they are available.
“We believe that the eight-year disqualification issued to Mahmood Al Zarooni by the Disciplinary Panel, together with the six month racing restriction placed on the horses in question by the BHA, 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.
“The next objective for BHA is to take the necessary steps to ensure that overall confidence in the integrity of the sport is not at risk. We welcome the proactive response of Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed in announcing their intention to review the procedures of this stable and the need to ensure that all horses formerly trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni are tested and cleared before they race again.
“The BHA will conduct the testing of the horses with the analytical work being carried out by HFL Sport Science. Godolphin have stated they will cooperate fully with this process. In addition, we will also provide advice to Godolphin of necessary changes to its procedures and controls where appropriate, and this will be supported by Godolphin’s own review.
“Naturally, the BHA will itself consider the wider issues raised by this matter and we will seek to ascertain and collate all other relevant information including where necessary interviewing other employees or contractors of Godolphin.
“As we do in all cases, as part of an ongoing process we will identify further areas for consideration which could be incorporated from this into our future sampling strategy.
“Finally, this case has served to highlight something that we were already aware of, in that there are inconsistencies across international racing jurisdictions regarding what substances are permitted to be used in training. While around the world, horseracing 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.”
Al Zarooni issued a statement that read: ``I would like to apologise to 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 the use of 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.”
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford described it as ``a terrible day for British racing''.
He said: “This is a terrible situation. It’s an awful situation that Godolphin has found themselves in.
“Mr Al Zarooni acted with awful recklessness and caused tremendous damage, not only to Godolphin and British racing.
“I think it will take a very long time for Godolphin to regain the trust of the British public.
“We’re shocked and completely outraged by the actions he has taken.”
Crisford also confirmed Al Zarooni had mentioned the names of three other people – two foremen and a veterinary assistant – who were “involved”.
However, he said the assistant had not broken any rules because he was unaware what substance he was administering.
Bittar said the BHA's investigation established that the substances in question were administered on the instruction of Al Zarooni.
He said the full details of how the substances were administered would be published later.
Rachel Hood, president of the Racehorse Owners Association, said: “The ROA was profoundly disturbed by the findings that anabolic steroids had been administered to horses at Moulton Paddocks stables, and we wholeheartedly support the BHA’s Disciplinary Panel in imposing a lengthy ban on Mr Al Zarooni.
“Horseracing in Britain is justifiably renowned for the unequivocal line that it adopts against the use of performance enhancing drugs.
“Our sport invests heavily in its integrity services, which includes the BHA undertaking over 8,000 drug tests annually, either on the racecourse or on a random basis at training yards.
“The fact that there have only been two cases of anabolic steroids being detected in recent years supports our view that this was an isolated incident.
“The BHA deserves credit for detecting the use of these substances and for dealing with this matter so decisively and expeditiously.
“It is also reassuring that Sheikh Mohammed and the Godolphin management team are fully co-operating with the BHA, closing the stables and testing every horse stabled there.
“Nobody should be left in any doubt that there is no place for illegal or performance enhancing substances in British racing.
“My message to ROA members is that they should not let this incident damage their confidence in British racing which is clean and supported by a robust and effective drug testing procedure, and the sport stands united in saying that it will not tolerate any individuals who damage the name and integrity of racing.”