Horseracing Stable Godolphin Rocked By Doping Scandal As 11 Horses Test Positive
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s British racing operation "was engulfed in scandal" after prohibited substances were reported in 11 of his horses, according to Alan Lee of the LONDON TIMES. All are trained for horseracing stable Godolphin by Emirati horseracing trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni and "include the unbeaten filly Certify, who must now miss the Qipco 1,000 Guineas on May 5." The British Horseracing Authority, which discovered the “serious irregularities” during routine testing, has "suspended all the horses and summoned Al Zarooni to a disciplinary inquiry." However, the trainer, whose future with the Godolphin team "must now be in serious doubt, has admitted his guilt." Al Zarooni said, "I deeply regret what has happened. I have made a catastrophic error. Because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realize that what I was doing was in breach of the Rules of Racing." The apology "may not save Al Zarooni." Despite his "soaring status" in Godolphin during an initial three seasons in Newmarket that brought him two domestic classics among almost 200 winners, such transgressions "are unlikely to be tolerated within a stable that stakes so much on its global reputation" (LONDON TIMES, 4/23).
DARK DAY: In London, Marcus Armytage reported while Godolphin "might one day just recover from the taint this brings" to Sheikh Mohammed’s organization, Al Zarooni is "facing a long or possibly lifetime ban" from the sport after admitting administering. His employment prospects within Godolphin "must be under threat." Given the seriousness of the case, the BHA "is trying to fix a date for that inquiry as soon as possible." The BHA has "already moved at speed" after the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory "contacted them on Monday with news of the positive tests" (TELEGRAPH, 4/22). The GULF NEWS reported Godolphin has "initiated an urgent review into procedures and controls" related to the operations of one of their racing stables in England. In a statement on Godolphin's website, Racing Manager Simon Crisford said, "This is a dark day for Godolphin. We are all shocked by what has happened. His Highness Sheikh Mohammad was absolutely appalled when he was told and this is completely unacceptable to him. We will await the outcome of the BHA inquiry before taking any further internal action" (GULF NEWS, 4/23).
TESTING POSITIVE: The BANGKOK POST reported the trainer said that he "had made a catastrophic mistake." All the horses who tested positive are "barred from racing until further notice" by the BHA, which will also "hold a disciplinary hearing into the case." The BHA said that on April 9, "samples were obtained from 45 horses trained by Al Zarooni at Moulton Paddocks Stables." On Monday afternoon, the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory said that 11 of the samples had "prohibited substances, namely ethylestranol and stanozolol" (BANGKOK POST, 4/23). BHA Dir Of Integrity, Legal and Risk Adam Brickell said, "Ethylestranol and stanozolol are anabolic steroids and therefore Prohibited Substances under British Rules of Racing, at any time -- either in training or racing. Mahmood Al Zarooni has been advised of the analysts' findings and has been visited by an Investigating Officer" (London TELEGRAPH, 4/23).
'EMBARRASSING' ROW: The BBC's Cornelius Lysaght wrote "it is impossible to underestimate how embarrassing this doping bombshell is for Sheikh Mohammed." This stable is "like no other, in that the hands-on approach adopted by the Sheikh -- known as 'the Boss' -- is legendary." It is "constantly emphasised how few decisions, from numerous horse purchases to race strategy and tactics, are made without reference to him, wherever he may be." There is no suggestion at all that Sheikh Mohammed "has done anything wrong." However, this all "seems to have unfolded pretty much right under his nose and under those of the large retinue of professionals and advisers which oversee the operation" (BBC, 4/23).
DIFFERENT RULES DOWN UNDER: In Sydney, Michael Sharkie reported Al Zarooni "would have escaped penalty under Australian rules of racing where out-of-competition steroid use is permitted." Racing Victoria vet Dr. Brian Stewart said that the two anabolic steroids found in 11 Al Zarooni-trained horses "were legal to use in Australia, as long as they were not present on race day." Stewart said that Australian authorities "had a different view to anabolic steroids than the zero tolerance approach taken in Britain and said there were definite therapeutic benefits of such drugs" (SMH, 4/24).