Those who had been hoping that an appeal might substantiate a variety of colourful conspiracy theories can now test them only against Mahmood al-Zarooni's decision not to contest his suspension after all. As ever, however reluctantly, they should probably accept that the most pedestrian explanation for the latest twist in the tale – the British Horseracing Authority announced that Zarooni's solicitors had withdrawn his appeal – must also be counted the most likely.
It had seemed optimistic to the point of eccentricity for the disgraced Godolphin trainer, who was given an eight-year ban last month, to imagine that he had left himself much room for manoeuvre in his brazen admissions about the administration of anabolic steroids to 15 horses in his care. Those uncomfortable with the breathless haste of proceedings against him had admittedly been relieved that Zarooni, after waiving representation at the initial hearing, might at least have his case reprised by someone with a better grasp of legal niceties – not to mention the English language. But he only ever indicated an intention to protest against the severity of his penalty, and any case he might have made has since been drastically weakened by the only new detail to have emerged about the scandal.
In lavishly incriminating himself to BHA officials, Zarooni had volunteered the names of four other horses to have received steroids – in addition to the 11 who produced positive samples after random testing of 45 animals at his yard in Newmarket. But then the rest of the Moulton Paddocks string was tested and produced seven new positives, including the St Leger winner, Encke.
The BHA deferred any further action, on that account, pending the appeal already lodged by Zarooni. So those who hoped that unanswered questions might yet be addressed at a second hearing must now rely upon the BHA asking them in its own right. For while the extra seven cases might seem to compound Zarooni's guilt only as a matter of degree, it would certainly be worth establishing whether or not they sustain his submission – convenient as it was, both to his former employers and the regulators themselves – that he had acted alone. According to his own, lurid testimony about the 15 admitted cases, he passed unmarked syringes to junior assistants from his car window during a pre-season visit to the yard. Zarooni spent most of his winter in Dubai and, while his own testimony has been rendered unreliable by the new positives, some public account should be sought for seven extra cases among horses supervised for so many months by anonymous lieutenants.
While investigations continue into the medication regime at Moulton Paddocks, the stable can at least resume business next week. Saeed bin Suroor, supplanted by his former assistant as Godolphin's No 1 trainer over the past three years, has been licensed to take over after his own nearby yard produced 100 per cent clean results in tests undertaken by the BHA "for the sake of completeness". With the exception of the 22 horses tainted by Zarooni, who all remain suspended until the last week of the turf season, Bin Suroor is able to send out runners from Moulton Paddocks from next Tuesday.
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