TWO of Scotland’s leading trainers have welcomed the eight-year ban on Godolphin’s Mahmood Al Zarooni as proof that British horseracing has the doping problem under control.
Speaking at the launch in Edinburgh of the Betfair Scottish Flat Racing Series, Linda Perratt and Jim Goldie said the ban showed that the system of random testing produced results.
“The British Horseracing Authority do a good job with the dawn raids that they do,” Perratt said. “You don’t have any prior warning that they’re coming in, they just turn up, and that’s a great thing for keeping everybody on their toes.
“We are governed by rules we have to abide to. Steroids are definitely a banned substance and should not be used at any time. It may be expensive to run the anti-doping system, but to find out those things [ie the use of steroids] is quite frightening.
“Random testing works in the same way for the jockeys. They can turn up at a race meeting and they don’t know until they get there that they could be doing an alcohol test or a drugs test. I think that can only benefit the industry, and help ensure that a jockey is not turning up on a Monday to ride your horse while not fit for work.
“So I think that all those tests can only make racing fairer and better, and keep the sport clean – which is the main aim for everybody,”
Perratt’s fellow-trainer Goldie agreed that there was a positive side for the industry in the Al Zarooni affair. “It’s a fair slap on the back for British racing,” he said. “We have got authorities that will go into the biggest stables in the land and dope-test these horses.
“I think it’s good [that Al Zarooni was caught]. British racing is cleaner than anybody elses. It’s definitely not rife. We have the strictest dope-testing regulations in the world. And it just shows that we will catch them and they will be outed. Godolphin has learned a huge lesson.”
Asked if the Al Zarooni case had been conducted with kid gloves for fear of frightening away Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed, Betfair director Martin Cruddace said he was convinced the affair had been conducted in completely even-handed fashion. “It’s a sorry episode, but the BHA have come out of it exceptionally well,” he said. “I think they have regulated without fear, without favour.
“I think the punishment reflects the severity of the incident, and as Jim said, to go into the largest stable in the country – randomly – shows an incredible willingness to ensure that this sport continues to have the reputation it does for being one of the cleanest in the world. So no, I don’t think he’s been treated with kid gloves at all.”
Al Zarooni was guilty of a “widespread systematic misuse of illegal substances”, according to further information released by the BHA yesterday.
Al Zarooni was banned last Thursday after he admitted administering anabolic steroids to 15 horses in his care.
The BHA confirmed the 37-year-old trainer, who was at the helm of the Godolphin-owned Moulton Paddocks, had personally brought the drugs into the United Kingdom on a flight from Dubai, where horses in training can be given anabolic steroids and can race 28 days later. His assertion he did not know that such administration was not permitted in the United Kingdom was considered “untruthful” by the BHA, who yesterday published its reasons for suspending Al Zarooni for eight years.
“The (disciplinary) panel takes a very dim view of the sheer volume of horses who were subjected to these unlawful medication regimes,” read a BHA statement. “This was a widespread systematic misuse of illegal substances which are absolutely prohibited under the rules. Nearly a quarter of the 45 horses tested at the stables had positive samples.
“These were horses in training, some of which were entered into races in April and May. The panel considered there was no excuse for Al Zarooni to be in any doubt as to the illegality of administering anabolic steroids.”