17 May 2013

The problem is, horse doping rules differ around the world

Clare Balding’s exclusive interview with Frankie Dettori for Channel 4 News last night caused many a ripple across the racing world, not least because it offered an apparent intimate glimpse into why one of Britain’s most famous sportsmen decided to take cocaine.

But the issue that really matters – not that role models being caught taking class A drugs is irrelevant – is the extent to which horses are being doped with perfomormance-enhancing drugs.

The Godolphin scandal has lifted the lid on a scandal that many in racing didn’t even fully understand. The problem is, the rules around the world are not the same. The use of steroids is banned at all times in the UK and, indeed, the EU – no steroids ever.

However, in some jurisdictions – like Australia, for example – trainers can give horses steroids as long as they are not actively competing. And all traces of the drug need to have disappeared before they are allowed to race again.

So to the revelation that horses under the care of another trainer, Gerard Butler, tested positive for a supplement that contained Stanozolol – the same banned steroid that Ben Johnson got busted for using during the Seoul Olympics and, indeed, the same thing that disgraced trainer Mahmoud al-Zarooni used at Godolphin.

Tonight, the British Horseracing Authority released this statement about their ongoin investigation into Gerard Butler –

“In light of the interview on last night’s Channel 4 News with the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) Chief Executive Paul Bittar, in which he was specifically asked to comment on the veterinary product Sungate, the BHA has released the following statement and update.

“Sungate is a product developed by an Italian company, produced and licensed for equine use in Italy. Its use in the UK is legal, but only when imported under the Special Import Certificate scheme administered by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

“The product is intended to assist in the treatment and management of joint disease in horses. Sungate contains Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid and consequently a prohibited substance under the Rules of Racing.

“The BHA became aware of the use of the product on horses in training following a visit to Gerard Butler’s yard in February 2013 as part of its testing in training sampling programme. Subsequently it became apparent that a veterinary practice, which had legally imported Sungate into the UK, had recommended its initial administration to horses in the care of Gerard Butler.

“The BHA has met with representatives of the veterinary practice in question. As a result of that meeting the BHA believes that Gerard Butler was not the only trainer to whom the administration of Sungate was recommended.

“Veterinary surgeons are not bound by the Rules of Racing, but are subject to their own rules of professional conduct. Therefore in order to establish the extent of the use of the product, BHA Investigating Officers will be interviewing trainers who are known to use the same veterinary practice.

“Under the Rules of Racing, licensed trainers are strictly liable for the administration of any prohibited substances administered to horses under their care and control.”