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04/12/2013 12:00:00
Disciplinary Panel result, penalties and reasons regarding Gerard Butler
 
 


  • Gerard Butler disqualified by Disciplinary Panel for five years having admitted all seven charges
  • Most serious charges related to Butler’s gross failure to look after the interests of four horses in his care
  • Panel accepted that Butler administered a prohibited substance called “Rexogin” by intra-articular injection to four horses using a method restricted by law to qualified veterinary surgeons
  • Rexogin is a prohibited substance which contains stanozolol and is designed for use in humans
  • Panel summarised that Butler’s actions were ‘an appalling breach of his duty to look after the interests of the horses in his care and amounted to conduct that was seriously prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain’


The following represents the full findings and reasons of the Disciplinary Panel of BHA regarding licensed trainer Gerard Butler:

1. Gerard Butler

1.1 The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) enquired into the case of Gerard Butler, a licensed trainer, on 18 and 19 November 2013. The Panel comprised Matthew Lohn (Chairman), Hopper Cavendish and Nicky Vigors. Mr Butler had been charged with seven breaches of the Rules of Racing following positive test results being reported for the anabolic steroid stanozolol in blood samples taken from nine horses in his yard.

1.2 The charges considered by the Panel were as follows:

1. Whether breaches of Rule (C)50 and/or Rule (C)55 of the Rules of Racing have been committed by Gerard Butler, by virtue of the samples taken from all or any of the following horses (being horses in the care or control of Butler) on 20 February 2013 at Egerton House Stables, Cambridge Road, Newmarket, Suffolk testing positive for the Prohibited Substance stanozolol:

(a) A TOUCH OF FASHION (USA)
(b) FLEMISH SCHOOL
(c) AZRAG (USA)
(d) LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA)
(e) RAINBOW BEAUTY
(f) ZAIN EAGLE
(g) ZAIN QUEEN
(h) ZAIN SPIRIT (USA)
(i) PRINCE ALZAIN (USA).

2. Whether Gerard Butler is in breach of Rule (C)13 of the Rules of Racing by virtue of his failure to keep a record of ‘Treatments’ for all or any of the following horses which included the information listed in Rules (C)13.2.1 to 13.2.6 for such Treatments:

(a) The administration of stanozolol to A TOUCH OF FASHION (USA) on 29 December 2012
(b) The administration of stanozolol to ZAIN EAGLE on a date unknown but said by Butler to have been in late 2012
(c) The administration of stanozolol to ZAIN SPIRIT (USA) on a date unknown but said by Butler to have been in late 2012 or early 2013
(d) The administration of stanozolol to AZRAG (USA) on a date unknown but said by Butler to have been in late 2012
(e) The administration of stanozolol to PRINCE ALZAIN (USA) on a date unknown but said by Butler to have been in late 2012

3. Whether Gerard Butler is in breach of Rule (C)13 of the Rules of Racing by virtue of his failure to keep a record of ‘Treatments’, which included the information listed in Rules (C)13.2.1 to 13.2.6 for such Treatments for the following horses under his care:

A TOUCH OF FASHION (USA) FLEMISH SCHOOL
AZRAG (USA)
LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA) RAINBOW BEAUTY
ZAIN EAGLE ZAIN QUEEN
ZAIN SPIRIT (USA) PRINCE ALZAIN (USA)

4. Whether Gerard Butler breached Rule (A)30 of the Rules of Racing by acting in a manner that was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain by administering or causing or allowing to be administered stanozolol, a Prohibited Substance, to all or any of the following horses under his care

(a) AZRAG (USA)
(b) ZAIN EAGLE
(c) ZAIN SPIRIT (USA)
(d) PRINCE ALZAIN (USA)

other than (1) by a veterinary surgeon, and (2) on veterinary advice for the appropriate treatment of an underlying medical condition in each horse.

5. Whether by administering intra-articular injections himself to all or any of the following horses

(a) AZRAG (USA)
(b) ZAIN EAGLE
(c) ZAIN SPIRIT (USA)
(d) PRINCE ALZAIN (USA)

despite him not being a qualified or registered veterinary surgeon, Gerard Butler acted in a manner that was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain and thereby breached Rule (A)30 of the Rules of Racing.

6. Whether by administering intra-articular injections himself to all or any of the following horses

(a) AZRAG (USA)
(b) ZAIN EAGLE
(c) ZAIN SPIRIT (USA)
(d) PRINCE ALZAIN (USA)

despite him not being a qualified or registered veterinary surgeon, Gerard Butler failed to conduct his business of training racehorses with reasonable care and skill and/or failed to act with due regard to the interests of horses under his care, and thereby breached Rule (C)22 of the Rules of Racing.

7. Whether by administering intra-articular injections himself to all or any of the following horses

(a) AZRAG (USA)
(b) ZAIN EAGLE
(c) ZAIN SPIRIT (USA)
(d) PRINCE ALZAIN (USA)

despite him not being a qualified or registered veterinary surgeon, Gerard Butler failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety and welfare of horses under his care and thereby breached Rule (C)27 of the Rules of Racing.

1.3 At the outset of the enquiry, Butler made a number of admissions. Some of the admissions were qualified with submissions seeking to lessen his culpability for the admitted breach. The admissions were as follows:-

Charge 1 – Admitted.

Charge 2 – Admitted; alongside the admission, Butler asserted that he had reasonably expected his veterinary surgeon, Tim Hawthorne, to record into the yard's medication book the administration of Sungate.

Charge 3 – Admitted; again Butler asserted that he had reasonably expected the veterinary surgeons who visited the yard to enter into his yard's medication book details of the administration of those drugs for which they were responsible.

Charges 4 & 5 – Admitted; the admission was again qualified. Butler denied that it was wrong per say to administer Sungate since it was, in his view, for a therapeutic purpose. He acknowledged that a veterinary surgeon should have administered the drug and explained that he had only administered the drug himself to save money believing that the owner would be unlikely to approve the cost of the veterinary administration.

Charges 6 & 7 – These charges were not admitted.

Following Butler's evidence, Counsel on his behalf admitted charges 6 & 7. From the evidence it was also clear that the basis upon which Charges 4 & 5 were qualified could no longer be maintained. This matter is set out in more detail below.

2. Background

2.1 On 20 February 2013, Dr Lynn Hillyer, a Veterinary Advisor (Medication Control) to the BHA, visited Butler's yard. The visit was undertaken in accordance with BHA policy for 'testing in training' visits to yards where there has been a post-race positive. One of Butler's horses had tested positive for morphine in 2012 when running at Great Yarmouth.

2.2 The visit was conducted by Veterinary Officer, Tony Welsh, and Race Day Integrity Officer, Sarah Duncan. 28 blood samples were obtained and a copy of Butler's medication records was taken for review. In Mr Welsh's report following the visit he noted 'Gerard Butler and his staff were a little taken aback on our arrival and I wonder whether he had fully grasped the fact that there would be a T in T visit after his positive in the summer. He and his staff were most amenable and very open'.

2.3 The following day Dr Hillyer reviewed the medication records from Butler's yard. The last entry in the record was dated 13 February 2013. Examination of the record revealed the administration of Sungate (together with a number of other drugs) to a filly, FLEMISH SCHOOL on 3 December 2012. The records identified the person authorising the treatment as Butler and the person administering the treatment as Mr Hawthorne, a vet at Rossdales Equine Hospital. Dr Hillyer cross referenced the date with Butler's Horses in Training records at Weatherbys and was able to determine that the administration of Sungate appeared to have taken place whilst the horse was out of training – the Weatherbys’ records indicated that the filly had been taken out of training on 1 December 2012 and then returned to training on 3 January 2013. Dr Hillyer was concerned by the administration of Sungate whilst FLEMISH SCHOOL had been under Butler's care and control. Sungate contains stanozolol, an anabolic steroid and its use in horses under the care and control of a trainer is banned by the Rules of Racing.

2.4 On the morning of 26 February 2013, the HFL Laboratory informed Dr Hillyer that they had a likely stanozolol screening finding for a different horse LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA). Dr Hillyer visited Butler's yard later that morning with Race Day Integrity Officer, Stewart Shilston. They wanted to re-sample FLEMISH SCHOOL and LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA) and establish the facts regarding the administration of stanozolol. At the visit, both horses were re-sampled and Dr Hillyer met with Butler.

2.5 Butler told Dr Hillyer that both horses had been treated with Sungate and that LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA) had been treated while the filly had been in training. Dr Hillyer advised Butler that he should not allow any further horses that were in training or under his care and control to be treated with Sungate. She also warned him that there appeared to be no entry in his medication records showing that Sungate or stanozolol had been administered to LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA). This was a further potential breach of the Rules of Racing. In discussions with Dr Hillyer, Butler volunteered details of further treatments that had been administered to his horses that had not been recorded in the medication record; five horses – LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA), FLEMISH SCHOOL, A TOUCH OF FASHION (USA), ZAIN QUEEN and RAINBOW DUTY had all been treated with Sungate on 16 February 2013. He also told Dr Hillyer that FLEMISH SCHOOL and A TOUCH OF FASHION (USA) had received doses of Sungate previous to these administrations.

2.6 Butler told Dr Hillyer that he did not know that Sungate was prohibited and could not be used for horses in training. He also informed Dr Hillyer that LITTLE BLACK BOOK (IRE), a horse that he had previously had in training had 'run on it' during 2012.

2.7 The BHA subsequently received additional pages updating Butler's Medication book. The updated pages included entries for 16 February 2013 for Sungate administration to LA BELLE EPOQUE (USA), FLEMISH SCHOOL, A TOUCH OF FASHION (USA), ZAIN QUEEN and RAINBOW BEAUTY. The additional entries recorded that the drugs had been administered by Mr Hawthorne and authorised by Butler. This was the second update to the medication records received by the BHA. The first update was made before Butler's admissions regarding Sungate and at that point the Sungate administrations were not included in the additional entries.

2.8 On 27 February 2013, the HFL Laboratory record reported screening findings of stanozolol in nine samples. In addition to the horses which Butler identified as receiving Sungate, four additional horses in his yard tested positive for stanozolol and namely AZRAG (USA), ZAIN EAGLE, ZAIN SPIRIT (USA) and PRINCE ALZAIN (USA).

3. Gerard Butler's Interview

3.1 Butler was interviewed in the presence of his solicitor on 9 April 2013. During the course of the interview, Butler explained that Sungate had been administered by Mr Hawthorne to a number of his horses under his care or control. Butler admitted that he had also administered Sungate himself to the four additional horses which had tested positive.

4. Gerard Butler's Medication Records

4.1 Dr Hillyer's review of Butler's medication records demonstrated two distinct areas of concern. Alongside issues relating to failure to record the administration of stanozolol, wider concerns were raised as to other treatments (other than anabolic steroids) which had been given to the horses under Butler's care and control and which should have been recorded in the medication records.

4.2 Dr Hillyer obtained copies of the veterinary surgeons' histories for each of the nine horses which tested positive for stanozolol. This confirmed that five horses had been administered Sungate by the veterinary surgeons. There was nothing in the medication records to reflect the administration of Sungate (or stanozolol) to ZAIN EAGLE, ZAIN SPIRIT (USA), AZRAG (USA) and PRINCE ALZAIN (USA). Dr Hillyer also identified a total of 81 other treatments which should have been recorded in Butler's medication records in accordance with the Rules of Racing.

Evidence before the Disciplinary Panel

5. Medication Records

5.1 Before the Panel, Butler acknowledged that he was aware of the requirement to keep detailed records of any medication given to his horses. He agreed that his medication book was deficient. He did not acknowledge full culpability for this failing though and asserted that he had an agreement with his yard veterinary surgeon, Mr Hawthorne, to ensure that he recorded any medication given to a horse in the medication record. Butler acknowledged that he did not review the medication record regularly and indeed on the 20 February 2013 he had no idea as to how inaccurate the medication record was.

5.2 The Panel also received evidence from Mr Hawthorne and Claire Mackay, who worked as a secretary and work rider for Butler. Mr Hawthorne, in an email sent to the Panel, confirmed that there was no established role for him to fulfil the duty for Butler of completing the medication book. He explained that it was located in an office which was locked if Butler, or his secretary was not in the yard. He acknowledged that when the medication book was available he would sometimes write details of the treatment in it. If he was unable to access the office, he would relay details of the treatment by text message or telephone call in order for Butler to be able to complete the book. Mr Hawthorne said he asked Butler to move the medication book to a more consistently accessible location after the issues which arose in February 2013 but this did not happen.

5.3 Claire Mackay gave evidence before the Panel. She confirmed that the medication book was locked in the office. She explained that she rode out in the morning and was not at the yard in the afternoon. Because of her routine, she would not regularly see Mr Hawthorne when he was at the yard. She believed that if Mr Hawthorne came to the yard and gave the horse something, Butler would be informed. She said that after the visits from the BHA in February 2013, she does now chase more to try and get the medications properly recorded in the book.

5.4 The Panel concluded in the light of this evidence that Butler had failed to comply with the Rules of Racing in respect of his medication record responsibilities and moreover, he was culpable for that failure. Any assertion that the yard veterinary surgeon was responsible for the completion of the medical record was not credible. There was no system at the yard to ensure that the medication record was kept up to date.

5.5 There was some dispute before the Panel as to whether some of the medication listed by the BHA in its schedule of drugs that should have been included in the medication records was correct. The Panel accepted submissions on behalf of Butler that it was not necessary to record Amikacin and in consequence the number of omissions in the drug schedule was not 81 entries but 77 entries.

6. Stanozolol

6.1 Butler was questioned before the Panel about where he purchased Sungate for the four horses AZRAG (USA), ZAIN EAGLE, ZAIN SPIRIT (USA) and PRINCE ALZAINE (USA) which he personally administered. Prior to giving evidence before the Panel, the BHA understood, following the information provided by Butler at his interview, that Butler had purchased stanozolol in the form of the licensed preparation Sungate. Despite being asked on a number of occasions prior to the hearing where he had purchased the drug from, no evidence had been forthcoming from Butler on this point.

6.2 It was only when questioned at the hearing that Butler revealed for the first time that he had purchased the stanozolol online from the UK Steroids Pharmacy. He did not in fact purchase Sungate but a preparation called Rexogin which contained stanozolol at a concentration that was ten times that of Sungate. The UK Steroids Pharmacy website is directed at body builders and made no reference to the veterinary administration of the drugs. The page on the website advertising Rexogin included the following quote: "..stanozolol is one of the favourite steroids in general, as confirmed by many positive doping cases. Stanozolol, for example was one of the substances which enabled Ben Johnson to achieve his magic sprints"

6.3 Butler admitted buying five boxes of the drug, each containing ten vials. He told the Panel that he decided to pay for the drug out of his own personal funds and did not make cross reference on the bank transfer when paying for the drug to mark the transfer to the Anabolic Pharmacy as a yard expense. Consequently his accountant did not recognise the expense and deduct the payment as a running cost of the yard. Butler explained to the Panel that the reason he purchased the stanozolol personally was because he did not believe the owner of the horses to whom he intended to administer the drug would pay for it.

6.4 The Panel did not accept this explanation. It concluded that the only reason why Butler paid for the stanozolol personally and did not claim it as a deductable yard expense was that he wanted nobody to know about the purchase.

6.5 The Panel was extremely concerned by Butler's revelation that the Rexogin preparation of stanozolol that he purchased was ten times the concentration of Sungate. Butler confirmed that he injected the fetlock and knee joints of the affected horses on two occasions in December and January. He admitted that he took no veterinary advice before giving the concentrated stanozolol. He admitted knowing that veterinary surgeons are cautioned not to exceed the recommended dose of Sungate and that he did not know of anyone else who had given Rexogin in this way before.

6.6 Butler admitted that for each of the four horses, they had not been given a full veterinary assessment and no other treatments had been tried by the veterinary surgeons prior to the administration of stanozolol. Moreover, Mr Butler admitted that he had allowed the four horses to be subsequently treated by the veterinary surgeons at Rossdales without them having any knowledge of his prior administration of Rexogin.

6.7 In the Panel's view, Butler's actions in giving Rexogin were an appalling failure to act in the best interests of the horses in his care

7. The Intra-Articular Injections

7.1 Butler was questioned at the hearing as to his previous experience of administering drugs to horses. He acknowledged that he had never given an intra-articular injection to a horse before injecting the four horses with Rexogin. He said he had been present at hundreds of such injections. He told the Panel he knew the steps that were taken having witnessed other veterinary surgeons give injections and felt able to undertake the procedure without training or professional supervision. He accepted that he knew what he was doing was wrong but asserted that the primary reason he did not use a veterinary surgeon was in order to try and keep the veterinary bills down for a particularly difficult owner. He explained that he sedated the horses prior to the injection and asked junior stable staff to help him. He acknowledged that he did not ask his senior stable staff or head lad to help him hold the horses. He accepted that he was not used to dealing with the glass vials of drugs and found them difficult to open and broke some vials and spilt Rexogin from others that he used.

7.2 The Panel concluded that Butler's behaviour in administering the injections was consistent with the underhand and covert manner in which he purchased the drug. It also noted that Butler's actions were in breach of Section 19 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 which makes it a criminal offence for unqualified persons to practice veterinary surgery.

7.3 Butler's evidence revealed an appalling dereliction of his duty as a licensed trainer. By his own admission, Butler kept no clear financial records or any invoice from the purchase of the Rexogin, he did not have the horses properly assessed prior to their treatment and made no recording in his medication records having injected the horses. He used junior stable staff to help him who would not question his actions and deceived his senior stable staff and kept from them important information about the treatment given to the horses.

7.4 In addition, notwithstanding the therapeutically uncertain effects of the high doses of stanozolol, he allowed the four horses to continue to be treated by the veterinary surgeons who had no knowledge of the concurrent use of Rexogin.

7.5 In the Panel's view, Butler's actions were an appalling breach of his duty to look after the interests of the horses in his care and amounted to conduct that was seriously prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain.

8. Penalties

8.1 In considering the question of penalties, the Panel considered that the actions of Butler in essence constituted a single course of conduct over a period of time. He disregarded the Rules of Racing regarding the use of anabolic steroids in horses in his care. He also disregarded statutory law in respect of the administration of Rexogin to four horses and more generally failed to keep proper medication records of the treatment. The Panel has approached the question of the penalty to reflect this state of affairs.

8.2 In the Panel's view the most significant and serious matters for which Butler falls to be censured are his breaches of Rules (C)50, (A)30 and (C)22/(C)27 in administering unlicensed preparations of stanozolol to four horses in his care. Allowing the administration of Sungate under the care and control of a veterinary surgeon is a serious matter as is the failure to keep up-to-date and accurate medication records; but these matters are considerably less serious in the Panel's view when compared to the covert acquisition of a non-veterinary formulation of high dose steroid and its subsequent intra-articular administration to horses.

8.3 Butler could not be given any credit by the Panel for assisting the BHA. He sought to absolve himself of responsibility in respect of his medication record responsibilities; trying to place them upon his veterinary surgeon and secretary. And until the day of the hearing, he failed to reveal the source and nature of the stanozolol which he personally obtained.

8.4 In the Panel's view his actions were a gross failure to look after the best interests of the four horses in his care – especially those which received Rexogin. The Rexogin stanozolol preparation was administered in concentrations and with a frequency that is untested in veterinary science and he allowed his yard veterinary surgeon to give further medication to those four horses without knowing of the underlying Rexogin treatment. His conduct ignored the statutory framework of medicines control and veterinary legislation as well as the Rules of Racing.

8.5 As the veterinary surgeon who gave evidence on Butler's behalf acknowledged, the four horses were not damaged but this was 'more by luck than any judgement'. Butler's cavalier approach to his ability to give an intra articulation was a particular concern to the Panel. It is simply not appropriate for a trainer to say that he is able to undertake an invasive veterinary procedure on the basis that he had seen veterinary surgeons performing the procedure hundreds of times before.

8.6 Butler also created unnecessary risks for the horses in the un-licensed source of the drug he obtained. He had no way of knowing the true source and nature of the drug he purchased over the internet.

8.7 In reviewing the Guide to Procedures and Penalties 2013 the Panel reminded itself that a breach of Rule (A)30, acting "prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing" carries a range of 1 month to 3 years penalty with an entry point of 3 months. The penalty range for a breach of Rules (C)22/(C)27 for Neglect over a period of time – very poor husbandry is 6 months to 3 years with an entry point of 9 months withdrawal of licence. The Panel determined that in all the circumstances of this case, Butler should be disqualified for a period of 5 years from Thursday 5 December 2013 until 4 December 2018 inclusive. This reflects the gravity of the conduct of Butler's behaviour. A single dose of Rexogin injected by Butler would have merited at least a 3 month suspension; Butler, by his own admission, illegally administered this drug on 16 different occasions. This was truly appalling behaviour from a licensed trainer.

8.8 The Panel also considered the issue of a penalty for the breach of Rule (C)55 in respect of the Rexogin and Sungate. The Panel reminded itself that the breach here carries a range of 1 month to 10 years with an entry point of 6 months disqualification. The Panel considered that in respect of the four horses receiving Rexogin and five receiving Sungate, a penalty of 5 years disqualification is appropriate. These drugs should not have been given to the horses. In particular the covert administration of Rexogin was of concern. Owners should be able to expect that horses under the care of licensed trainers will not be administered illegal drugs which are absolutely prohibited by the Rules of Racing. This was a serious and repeated breach of the Rules by an experienced trainer using different preparations of stanozolol which was absolutely prohibited from use in horses in his care. In the circumstances of the case, the Panel considered this sanction should run concurrently with that outlined above for the breaches of Rules (A)30 and (C)22/(C)27.

8.9 In reaching this penalty the Panel reminded itself of the financial concerns that Butler said was clouding his judgement at the time, and acknowledged that prior to these events he was a man of good character. The Panel also carefully read and took into account the numerous testimonials submitted on behalf of Butler which repeatedly gave testament to his good conduct and excellence as a trainer. The Panel has been mindful of the effect the disqualification will have on Butler's stable staff.

8.10 Finally the Panel is mindful of the effects of disqualification and the need to relocate those horses currently residing in Butler's yard. The Panel directs that Butler, notwithstanding his disqualified status should have a period of 48 hours to arrange the relocation of his horses.


Notes to Editors:

1. The Panel for the hearing was: Matthew Lohn (Chair), Hopper Cavendish and Nicky Vigors

2. BHA will be issuing a comment on this issue shortly


 

For more information contact:

Robin Mounsey
British Horseracing Authority
t:02071520048
m:07584171551
e: rmounsey@britishhorseracing.com