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30/04/2013 09:44:00
Result and Reasons of a Disciplinary Panel hearing (Mahmood Al Zarooni)
 
 



The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority ("BHA") held an Inquiry on 25 April 2013 into the blood samples taken on 9 April 2013 from various horses at the training yard of Mahmood Al Zarooni, a licensed trainer, to establish whether or not he was in breach of the following Rules of Racing:

1. Allegations

1.1 Whether breaches of Rule (C)50 and/or Rule (C)55 have been committed by Al Zarooni by virtue of the samples taken from all or any of the following horses (being horses in the care or control of Al Zarooni) on 9 April 2013 testing positive for the prohibited substance Ethylestranol:

(a) GHOSTFLOWER (IRE)
(b) SWEET ROSE
(c) VALLEY OF QUEENS (IRE)
(d) FAIR HILL
(e) DESERT BLOSSOM (IRE)
(f) CERTIFY (USA)
(g) ORKNEY ISLAND

1.2 Whether breaches of Rule (C)50 and/or Rule (C)55 have been committed by Al Zarooni by virtue of the samples taken from all or any of the following horses (being horses in the care or control of Al Zarooni) on 9 April 2013 testing positive for the prohibited substance Stanozolol:

(a) OPINION POLL (IRE)
(b) ARTIGIANO (USA)
(c) RESTRAINT OF TRADE (IRE)
(d) BATHRAT AMAL (JPN)

1.3 Whether Al Zarooni is in breach of Rule (C)13 by virtue of his failure to keep a 'Record of Treatment' for all or any of the following (namely the administration of Ethylestranol) which included the information listed in Rules (C)13.2.1 to (C)13.2.6 for such treatment:

(a) GHOSTFLOWER (IRE)
(b) SWEET ROSE
(c) VALLEY OF QUEENS (IRE)
(d) FAIR HILL
(e) DESERT BLOSSOM (IRE)
(f) CERTIFY (USA)
(g) ORKNEY ISLAND
(h) COMITAS
(i) SASHIKO
(j) VACATIONER

1.4 Whether Al Zarooni is in breach of Rule (C)13 by virtue of his failure to keep a 'Record of Treatment' for all or any of the following (namely the administration of Stanozolol) which included the information listed in Rules (C)13.2.1 to (C)13.2.6 for such treatment:

(a) OPINION POLL (IRE)
(b) ARTIGIANO (USA)
(c) RESTRAINT OF TRADE (IRE)
(d) BATHRAT AMAL (JPN)
(e) TEARLESS

1.5 Whether Al Zarooni caused or allowed to be administered Ethylestranol, a prohibited substance, to all or any of the following horses under his care:

(a) GHOSTFLOWER (IRE)
(b) SWEET ROSE
(c) VALLEY OF QUEENS (IRE)
(d) FAIR HILL
(e) DESERT BLOSSOM (IRE)
(f) CERTIFY (USA)
(g) ORKNEY ISLAND
(h) COMITAS
(i) SASHIKO
(j) VACATIONER

and as a result breached Rule (A)30 by acting in a manner that was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain.

1.6 Whether Al Zarooni caused or allowed to be administered Stanozolol, a prohibited substance, to all or any of the following horses under his care:

(a) OPINION POLL (IRE)
(b) ARTIGIANO (USA)
(c) RESTRAINT OF TRADE (IRE)
(d) BATHRAT AMAL (JPN)
(e) TEARLESS

and as a result breached Rule (A)30 by acting in a manner that was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain.

2. Admissions

2.1 At the outset of the hearing Al Zarooni admitted all the alleged breaches of the Rules and apologised for his actions.

2.2. The Panel received submissions from Graeme McPherson QC on behalf of the BHA regarding the background facts of the case. All of the evidence submitted by the BHA was accepted without challenge by Al Zarooni. Mr McPherson also addressed the Panel on the features of the case that should be taken into account when approaching the question of penalty.

2.3 Al Zarooni briefly addressed the Panel on the background to the issues.

3. Background Facts

3.1 On 9 April 2013 the BHA conducted a 'testing in training' visit to Godolphin's Moulton Paddocks Stables in Newmarket where Al Zarooni was responsible for just over 200 horses. There had been issues identified in relation to medication records during a previous visit in 2010 and two of Al Zarooni's horses had post-race positive tests in 2012; on both occasions for painkillers.

3.2 The testing visit was led by Dr Lynn Hillyer, a Veterinary Officer employed by the BHA as their Veterinary Advisor (Medication Control).

3.3 The visit itself was uneventful and samples were taken from 45 horses. Al Zarooni was still in Dubai following the Dubai World Cup Carnival but his staff assisted the BHA. Mr Charlie Appleby, the yard manger, accompanied the BHA staff and Mr Simon Crisford, Racing Manager to Godolphin, arrived during the sampling to check what was happening. The Medication Books were assessed and in the view of Dr Hillyer they appeared 'in good order' with the overall use of medication seeming to have decreased compared with a review three years previously.

3.4 On 16 April 2013 HFL Sport Science, the laboratory responsible for conducting the sample testing, rang Dr Hillyer to report four unusual screening findings for stanozolol. Verbal authorisation was given to proceed to confirmatory analysis. Later that day, seven further samples were reported as screening positive for ethylestranol. Confirmatory analysis was authorised for these further samples. All eleven samples were confirmed as positive findings.

3.5 In the light of the positive findings, a meeting was arranged the following morning with Mr Crisford. Present at the meeting from the BHA were Dr Hillyer and Mr Stuart Williams, a BHA Investigating Officer. Mr Crisford was informed of the positive findings and was requested to make enquiries to ascertain if a source of the drugs could be identified.

3.6 At 3pm the same afternoon a further meeting was held with Al Zarooni present. Mr Paul Bittar, the BHA Chief Executive also attended as an observer.

3.7 At the meeting Al Zarooni admitted being responsible for the administration of Stanasol (which contains stanozolol) on 14 March 2013 to the four horses that returned positive samples for stanozolol. He also admitted being responsible for the administration of Nitrotain to seven horses (which contains ethylestranol), between 14 March and 7 April 2013 to those horses which returned positive samples for ethylestranol . At the interview Al Zarooni produced the box of Nitrotain which was the source of the ethylestranol and handed over the unused Nitrotain that had not yet been dispensed together with a list of the horses that had received the medication. He confirmed he no longer held any more stock of Stanasol.

3.8 Al Zarooni informed the BHA that he had also administered Stanasol to one additional horse, and Nitrotain to three further horses which had not been tested at the initial visit on 9 April 2013.

3.9 Al Zarooni explained at interview that his knowledge of the drug came from working in Dubai where use of anabolic steroids in training is permitted. He told the Investigating Officer that he thought the drug could be used if the horse was not racing. Al Zarooni confirmed that he had not recorded the administration of any of the anabolic steroids in the stable's Medication Books. He could offer no explanation for this omission.

3.10 At the hearing Al Zarooni admitted, when questioned by the Panel, that he personally brought the anabolic steroids into the UK in his luggage when returning from Dubai. In relation to the administration of Stanasol, he informed the Panel that on 14 March 2013 he made up five unmarked syringes each containing 4ml of the drug from his bottle of the drug. He then drove to Moulton Paddocks Stables and passed the syringes out of his car window to an unqualified veterinary assistant, Sharif Mahboob, and asked him to give the drugs to five horses which he listed on a piece of paper. All five horses were under veterinary care at the time in respect of musculoskeletal problems and in one case, colic. Al Zarooni said he thought the drug would help improve the horses' condition.

3.11 In relation to the Ethylestranol, Al Zarooni told the Panel that he asked his stable staff to include this medication, which was in paste form, to be included in the feed of a number of horses to stimulate their appetite.

3.12 Al Zarooni explained to the Panel that in Dubai anabolic steroid drugs are given to horses in training. Having received the drug, the horses are only allowed to race following elapse of the 28 day withdrawal period for the drug.

4. Stanozolol and Ethylestranol

4.1 The Panel received written evidence from Dr Hillyer as to the effects of anabolic steroids in horses. The evidence was not challenged by Al Zarooni.

4.2 Dr Hillyer's evidence confirmed that the anabolic steroid drugs Stanozolol and Ethylestranol have no licensed veterinary formulation in Great Britain. Both drugs have little or no therapeutic indication in horses. Each of the drugs have anabolic actions on the body; stimulating metabolism.

4.3 Her statement set out the references in the Rules of Racing which make it explicit that anabolic steroids are prohibited substances and as such should never be present in a horse that is under the care or control of a licensed or permitted trainer.

4.4 As to their effect, Dr Hillyer acknowledged that at the present time it is scientifically unproven whether anabolic steroids do in fact enhance equine performance; the research simply has not been done. That said Dr Hillyer asserted in her evidence that since anabolic steroids have clear effects on body weight and muscle mass it is likely that they will enhance performance in horses in a manner similar to human athletes.

4.5 Dr Hillyer's evidence set out her view that steroids confer an unfair advantage on horses to whom the drugs have been given, and for that reason the absolute ban imposed by the BHA is justified. Although such drugs are excreted from the body and generally undetectable a month after administration, Dr Hillyer felt that they would confer an advantage on a horse for up to 6 months. Dr Hillyer felt this period was the least that one could expect.

4.6 Dr Hillyer's evidence also set out some of the varying approaches of different Racing Authorities around the world to the use of anabolic steroids and contrasted this with the stance taken by the BHA to absolutely prohibit their use. Her statement confirmed the extensive press coverage given to the Rule changes concerning prohibited substances and the position of the BHA that anabolic steroid administration is significantly detrimental to the proper conduct of the sport of racing and the public reputation of British horseracing.

5. Penalty

5.1 The Panel carefully considered the question of penalty. Although Al Zarooni has been charged with number of different breaches the essence of his misbehaviour is found in the breaches of Rules (C)50 and (C)55 which provide for strict liability and penalties for a trainer in respect of any prohibited substances found in samples taken from their horses.

5.2 In this case, Al Zarooni has admitted that he personally brought anabolic steroids into the UK from Dubai and asked his unqualified staff to administer the drugs.

5.3 The Panel considered there was no excuse for Al Zarooni to be in any doubt as to the illegality of administering anabolic steroids. The BHA has publicised this issue and following the case of Howard Johnson in 2011 the matter was given further prominence.

5.4 Al Zarooni's assertion at the hearing that he did not know that such administration was not permitted in the UK was simply not truthful. He asserted that he was only trying to do the best for his horses who were unwell. He did not have a credible explanation as to why he had not discussed the matter with the stable's veterinary surgeons or entered a record of the administration of the drugs in the stable's Medication Books. The Panel concluded that Al Zarooni sought to confer an unfair advantage on his horses by the underhand administration of illegal medication. His attempt at cheating was uncovered by the regulatory inspection and he had no justifiable excuse for his behaviour.

5.5 The Panel takes a very dim view of the sheer volume of horses who were subjected to these unlawful medication regimes. 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.

5.6 There is no doubt that the facilities available to Al Zarooni at Moulton Paddock Stables are impressive. He had access to expert veterinary advice from a number of sources but he deliberately ignored this resource and chose to covertly administer to horses in training anabolic steroids which he had brought back into the UK in his luggage from Dubai. These horses in question were being actively reviewed by veterinary surgeons during the period of administration of the drug. There was no reason for Al Zarooni's failure to inform the veterinary surgeons of this treatment intervention unless as in this case the substance that was being administered was prohibited.

5.7 The Panel is firmly of the view that this was not an accidental or inadvertent misunderstanding of the Rules – this was a deliberate flouting of the governance framework of British racing by one of the most high profile flat trainers working in the racing industry.

5.8 The underhand and repeated nature of these transgressions and the disrepute into which racing is brought by them can only be marked by a substantial penalty. The Panel has noted, to Al Zarooni's credit, his apology and remorse expressed to it. It has also noted his co-operation with the investigation and the Inquiry and furthermore his identification of four additional horses to whom illegal administrations were made who were not the subject of the initial inspection sampling. But this does little to ameliorate the aggravating features of this case.

5.9 The penalty range set out in the BHA’s guidelines for a breach of Rule (C)55 is 1 month to 10 years suspension or disqualification with an entry point of 6 months. The Panel has carefully considered where on the scale of seriousness this breach lies.

5.10 The conduct of high profile trainers is keenly watched by all Stakeholders in the sport. Al Zarooni administered anabolic steroids to a significant number of horses in training. This is a very serious departure from the proper governance standards expected in horseracing. The Panel consider that Al Zarooni's actions have damaged the reputation of British racing. The gravity of Al Zarooni's breach means that the appropriate penalty must be at the upper end of the range. The Panel has determined that Al Zarooni should therefore be disqualified for a period of 8 years. The Panel have considered whether penalties should also follow for the breaches for Rules (C)13 and (A)30 but have considered that these matters are subsumed within the primary issues of this case. The order for disqualification against Al Zarooni will take effect immediately alongside proper allowance being given for Godolphin to reorganise the supervision and allocation of Al Zarooni's horses to new trainers. Al Zarooni’s disqualification will be effective from Thursday 25 April 2013 to Saturday 24 April 2021.



Notes to Editors:

1. The Panel for the hearing was: Matthew Lohn, Hopper Cavendish and Edward Dorrell.

2. The statement from the BHA Chief Executive Paul Bittar regarding the hearing and published on Thursday 25th April 2013 can be found here: http://www.britishhorseracing.presscentre.com/Press-Releases/Statement-from-BHA-Chief-Executive-Paul-Bittar-regarding-today-s-Disciplinary-proceedings-involving-3bb.aspx. This statement clarifies that subsequent to the investigation the BHA plan to:

  • Test all of the remaining horses which were previously under the care of Mahmood Al Zarooni. The analytical work will be carried out by HFL Sport Science. This process is under way and the results will be published in due course.
  • Provide advice to Godolphin of necessary changes to its procedures and controls where appropriate. This process is under way. It should also be noted that Godolphin will be conducting their own internal review.
  • Consider the wider issues raised by this matter and we will seek to ascertain and collate all other relevant information including where necessary interviewing other employees or contractors of Godolphin. As we do in all cases, as part of an ongoing process we will identify further areas for consideration which could be incorporated from this into our future sampling strategy. This process is under way.
  • Put the subject of the differing approach amongst Racing jurisdictions to the use of anabolic steroids in training on the agenda for discussion with our international colleagues. This process is under way and contact has already been made to the IFHA to raise this as an agenda item.

3. The 15 horses involved in the case have been suspended for 6 months. Details of this notification can be found here: http://www.britishhorseracing.presscentre.com/Press-Releases/BHA-statement-regarding-suspension-of-15-Godolphin-horses-in-the-care-of-Mahmood-Al-Zarooni-3ba.aspx


 

For more information contact:

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