One of the world's best known horse racing stables, Godolphin, is engulfed in a doping scandal as one of its top trainers admits using prohibited drugs on its horses.
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Mahmood al-Zarooni, a classic-winning Godolphin trainer, will now face a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel after traces of anabolic steroids were found in samples taken from 11 horses in his care.
On April 9 the BHA carried out tests on 45 horses trained by al-Zarooni at Godolphin's Moulton Paddock stables in Newmarket.
I deeply regret what has happened. I have made a catastrophic error. Mahmood Al Zarooni
On Monday the organisation said it had received written advice from the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory that 11 of the horses had tested positive for the prohibited substances ethylestranol and stanozolol.
On Monday night Al Zarooni issued a mea culpa on Godolphin's website.
"I deeply regret what has happened. I have made a catastrophic error," he said. "Because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realise that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing.
"I can only apologise for the damage this will cause to Godolphin and to racing generally."
This is a dark day for Godolphin. We are all shocked by what has happened. Simon Crisford, Godolphin racing manager
Al-Zarooni, who won the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster last year with Encke, and the Dubai World Cup with Monterosso, has trained a number of big-race winners since joining Godolphin, owned by Dubai's ruling al-Maktoum family.
One of the horses that tested positive was Certify (pictured above), an unbeaten filly in four outings that was one of the favourites for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, one of the British classics. Gold Cup runner-up Opinion Poll was another horse that tested positive for prohibited substances.
The horses will now be suspended from racing "for an extended period of time".
The Godolphin operation is headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates.
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: "This is a dark day for Godolphin. We are all shocked by what has happened.
"His Highness Sheikh Mohammed 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.
"Sheikh Mohammed has instructed me to begin an urgent review of all of our procedures and controls. That is already underway and we will take advice from the BHA in completing it."
Al-Zarooni (pictured, above) joined Godolphin in March 2010, and was brought in to provide competition to renowned trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Adam Brickell, director of integrity, legal and risk for the BHA, 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.
"A disciplinary panel inquiry into the analysts' findings will take place at the first available opportunity, confirmed details of which will follow when available."
06 April 2013
- Godolphin trainer Al Zarooni faces horse doping inquiry BBC News
- Godolphin in 'shock' as trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni admits... The Independent
- Godolphin rocked by drugs scandal Daily Mail