A racing industry still reeling from last week’s Godolphin drugs bombshell is set for a fresh shock today after a second Newmarket trainer disclosed to The Independent that he is facing a ban for injecting anabolic steroids.
Gerard Butler admits that several horses in his yard received treatment for injured joints, but says he was so confident in veterinary assurances about the medication in question that he entered its use in his official medical records – which were sent to the British Horseracing Authority, in connection with another matter, and returned without comment. He believes that more than 100 horses across the headquarters of British Flat racing have been given the same drug.
Last week, Mahmood Al Zarooni was given an eight-year ban after 11 horses tested positive to prohibited steroids after BHA officials made an unannounced visit to an elite stable owned by Sheikh Mohammed, the biggest investor in the sport’s history.
Al Zarooni confessed his guilt and was swiftly disowned by his former employers, who have shut down his stable pending voluntary testing on every horse.
The BHA, which dealt with Al Zarooni with unusual speed, has portrayed him as a brazen exception in a sport with a black-and-white zero tolerance of steroids. But the case also highlighted grey areas – including inconsistencies in other jurisdictions, notably Australia, and the difficulty in policing steroids when horses are out of training.
BHA rules apply only to licensed premises, meaning horses can be administered steroids while at rest elsewhere. Butler, who stresses his full co-operation with the BHA, is clear that his horses were medicated in training. But his vets’ suggestion that the drug was widely used in the town, given in good faith, persuaded him that he was not courting trouble. He claims to have since been advised that more than 100 Newmarket horses have had the same treatment – a possibility that suggests the sport cannot hope to wake from its sudden steroids nightmare any time soon.