RV keen to revisit steroid rules

Racing Victoria will push for a re-examination of the Australian rules allowing horses to be treated with anabolic steroids while ”out of competition” after the shock revelations in England that one of the world’s biggest racing stables, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, had been using steroids to boost their gallopers’ wellbeing and performance.
Nanjing Night Net

Mahmood Al Zarooni, one of two Newmarket-based trainers working for the Emirati racing giant, was banned for eight years at a disciplinary hearing held overnight Friday Australian time, effectively destroying his career.

Tests by the British Racehorse Authority revealed that 11 of his horses had been injected with either ethylestrenol or stanozolol. Zarooni subsequently admitted that another four had been treated, bringing the total to 15. The horses – including 1000 Guineas pre-post favourite Certify – have been banned from racing for six months.

British racing has a zero tolerance policy to all drugs, but in Australia trainers are allowed to use steroids to help horses recover more quickly from their exertions or to enhance their wellbeing if they are spelling and not in training. They are not allowed to race with steroids in their system.

But, according to British reports, some steroids could be used close to race days, as ethylestrenol disappears from a horse’s system within days.

Bernard Saundry, the chief executive of Racing Victoria, said on Friday that the alarming disclosures from Britain were a wake-up call for racing jurisdictions around the world.

As a result, RV would seek to reignite debate on whether allowing the use of steroids at any time was the right thing for the sport.

”We will be asking the Australian Racing Board to re-open discussion on the therapeutic use of anabolic steroids in Australia and whether it is in the best interests of the industry to continue with the present policy,” he said.

”At present they are allowed to be treated with anabolics but are not allowed to compete with any traces in their system. There has not been a raceday positive test since the mid 1990s. I understand the concerns and that it’s a fine line. We do around 14,000 tests a year and we need to make sure the integrity of the sport is paramount.”

Al Zarooni has been employed as a principal trainer by Godolphin only since 2010, but he has had a number of big wins with horses regarded as outsiders, including last year’s shock St Leger winner Encke, whose victory prevented Coolmore’s Camelot from becoming the first horse in 42 years to win the English Triple Crown.

Evidence at the inquiry revealed that Zarooni had lied to a veterinary assistant at his stables, having ordered the assistant to inject the horses without saying what the syringes contained.

Australian Paul Bittar, a former senior RV official and now head of the BHA, said after the hearing that inquiries were continuing.

”I’m certainly not saying it’s the end of it – I would term it the end of the beginning in a way. It deals with the issues at hand and the 11 positive tests we had and where the liability sits, and it sits with the trainer. It’s not fair to say end of it, far from it,” Bittar said.

Godolphin also employs Newmarket-based Saeed bin Suroor, a frequent visitor to Victoria with Melbourne Cup raiders. In Australia, the sheikh’s horses run under the Darley banner, with Peter Snowden as head trainer. Many of the successful Australian gallopers are then transferred to Europe.

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