Al Zarooni Suspended Eight Years; Godolphin Horses Banned for Six Months

by | 04.25.2013 | 2:19pm
Mahmood Al Zarooni

Godolphin trainer Mahmood al Zarooni was banned from horse racing for eight years by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority.

On Monday it was announced that 11 horses trained by Al Zarooni had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. Al Zarooni was accompanied to Thursday's disciplinary meeting by Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford.

After the meeting concluded, Crisford told members of the press that “I would like to apologize to Sheikh Mohammed, to all at Godolphin, and to fans of British racing.”

Crisford added that it was a “Terrible day for British racing and Godolphin. Zarooni was reckless and we are sorry as he was ours.”

Statement from BHA Chief Executive Paul Bittar regarding today's Disciplinary proceedings involving Mahmood Al Zarooni:

“We believe that it is recognised by all who follow our sport that the circumstances in this particular case are exceptional, not only on account of the profile of the owner in question, but also the number and calibre of the horses involved. However, we also believe the outcome is an endorsement for the effectiveness of British Racing's dope testing programme.

“On April 9th representatives of the BHA visited the yard of Mahmood Al Zarooni and took samples from 45 horses as part of our testing in training sampling programme. As soon as the nature and number of positives became apparent, we recognised that there were a number of challenges for the sport and the BHA, initially in the very short term.

“The first and immediate priority was to establish the facts as to how the prohibited substances came to be present in the horses' samples. Secondly, in view of the potential repercussions for the sport and the profile of the races for which some of the horses held entries, it was in the public's interest, as well as that of BHA and Godolphin, to progress the Disciplinary procedures as quickly as possible.

“Both of these objectives have now been met and I would like to publicly thank the staff at the BHA and the team at HFL Sport Science who have worked around the clock on the case to achieve the outcome of today's Disciplinary Panel hearing. This rapid resolution would also not have been possible without the full cooperation of Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed.

“The relevant Rules in this case are explicit in that the use of anabolic steroids in horses in the care of a licensed trainer is prohibited and that strict liability for everything administered to horses while they are in training lies with the trainer. The BHA's investigation has established that the substances in question were administered on the instruction of Mahmood Al Zarooni. The full details of this will be formally addressed in the Disciplinary Panel's findings, to be published in due course and once they are available.

“We believe that the 8 year disqualification issued to Mahmood Al Zarooni by the Disciplinary Panel, together with the six month racing restriction placed on the horses in question by the BHA, will serve to reassure the public, and the sport's participants, that use of performance-enhancing substances in British Racing will not be tolerated and that the sport has in place a robust and effective anti-doping and medication control programme.

“The next objective for BHA is to take the necessary steps to ensure that overall confidence in the integrity of the sport is not at risk. We welcome the proactive response of Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed in announcing their intention to review the procedures of this stable and the need to ensure that all horses formerly trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni are tested and cleared before they race again.

“The BHA will conduct the testing of the horses with the analytical work being carried out by HFL Sport Science. Godolphin have stated they will cooperate fully with this process. In addition, we will also provide advice to Godolphin of necessary changes to its procedures and controls where appropriate, and this will be supported by Godolphin's own review.

“Naturally, the BHA will itself 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.

“Finally, this case has served to highlight something that we were already aware of, in that there are inconsistencies across international racing jurisdictions regarding what substances are permitted to be used in training. While around the world, horseracing bodies quite rightly adopt a zero tolerance policy to the presence of anabolic steroids when carrying out post-race testing, the approach is not so consistent for horses in training.

“In an age of increasing international travel and competition we will put the subject on the agenda for discussion with our international colleagues.”

BHA statement regarding suspension of 15 Godolphin horses in the care of Mahmood Al Zarooni:

Jamie Stier, Director of Raceday Operations and Regulation for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), said:

“The BHA has today informed Godolphin, the owners of the horses in question, that the 15 horses known to have been administered with either Ethylestranol or Stanozolol have been suspended from running in races for a period of six months, with effect from Tuesday 9th April 2013.

“The length of suspension reflects the period beyond which the BHA is confident that the horses in question can have derived no performance related benefit from the administration of these prohibited substances.

The decision regarding the suspension was made by the BHA, not by the Disciplinary Panel who are hearing the enquiry. The enquiry started as scheduled at 2.30pm.

1. This suspension has been imposed by the BHA and is separate from the Disciplinary Panel hearing involving Mahmood Al Zarooni.

2. The suspension relates to the following horses:


3. The suspension will end on Tuesday 8th October 2013 and the horses will be free to race again from Wednesday 9th October 2013.

Read more in the Racing Post

  • Tinky

    This is arguably the most meaningful aspect of the high-profile story to date. In sharp contrast to how things are handled in the U.S. (i.e. bidness as usual), the owners of the drugged horses are made to pay a stiff price. What that means, of course, is that great incentive is given to owners to insure that their trainers of choice are clean.

    What a refreshing concept.

  • That is effectively the whole flat season for them. Amazing. Will the horses be eligible to come to US and run once they meet out withdrawal times? No offense to Godolphin but I hope not. There should be global reciprocity(sp?).

    • PNkt

      My understanding is that the ban is reciprocal across the globe.

      • UK Horseman

        I don’t think it is and this is where the US problem begins. As there is no central USA Horse Racing Authority, it would be up to each individual State’s Racing Commissions to recognize any ban (I may be wrong) .

        We have banned jockeys before in the UK due to issues like race fixing, only for them to begin their careers in certain States in the US during their UK bans. It’s a farce that has got to stop.

        The USA needs to urgently UNITE (like the Country’s name) all of the Racing commissions into ONE body and get rid of all of these ABCD organizations which do nothing but cost money and distractions.

        Yes as an Englishman I’m embarrassed about this scandal but I’m also very proud about how we dealt with it.

        • Don Reed

          Good for you. Best day for England since May 8, 1945.

        • Hopefieldstables

          They will be banned in every other recognised racing jurisdiction in the world. Only the US, state by state is an issue.

  • PNkt

    Just announced, Al Zarooni has been banned for 8 years.

  • Other than in the US, the trainer is banned from racing 8 yrs, and there is no civil court fight.

    • Not to worry as Dutrows case will go no where…Watch…

  • Mike B

    In the U.S. he’d be suspended for 10 days 2 years from now. Good for the BHA!

    • UK Horseman

      Make that 6 months with his assistant trainer training them during the suspension.

      • Don Reed

        Six days.

      • 30 days max…2 years from is right on time…

    • amgm1431

      Except in California where he’d beat the suspension and deny any wrongdoing at all.

  • *********posiblemente haya sido el pienso…. y algún mozo de cuadra.. las analiticas y bioquimicas siempre primero.. antes hay que hacer pruebas.. toni arias von hohenzollern y de habsburgo. “cuadra arias”.

  • ***el problema de los piensos..el clorenbuterol.. u.s.a. & butazolidina y butasil… “algún preparador y algun mozo de cuadra”.

  • Ed Brockman

    No problem. Godolphin can simply ship the horses to trainers in the U.S. and their race careers can continue.

    • Hopefieldstables

      Cant do that in any other racing jurisdiction. We all recognise the ban.

  • Ohio Bred Girl

    From announcement to penalty in four days. Awesome, BHA. USA, take note.

  • salthebarber

    I’m not in the if-it-is-Europe-it-must-be-better-camp, well, except for some things like food, wine and chocolate. The issue is much larger than this suspension. Zarooni has been using steroids for years and it has gone undetected. I say for years because he said he was unaware it was prohibited. I am struggling a little also with experienced horse owners not noticing it. I believe based on the evidence, all major stables in the UK should be tested immediatley. It is the only way to establish any credibility about drug enforcement in Europe. Other than that, I’ll assume that Europe’s enforcement against illegal drugs is lax.

    • This is surely not the first testing done. I’m sure that with the harsh penalties there is much less steroid use than you imply. And who are we to even SUGGEST all horses over there be tested?? Let’s clean up our own house before even implying others are wrong. It’s known around the world that we are the most lax.

      • salthebarber

        Maureen, Zarooni was using steroids regularly while thinking it was legal. Why wasn’t it noticed before? If a major trainer thinks its legal, then how many other stables are under the same misconception? Just like in the U.S., it’s a perception problem. Where are all the skeptics over there? As a person who occasionally bets on European races, I’d like to see this cleared up.

        • Matt Clarke

          The BHA has done its job, quickly, effectively and in a transparent manner. Race day testing and sampling in the U.K. is far superior to the hotchpotch of state labs used in the U.S.A. Zarooni was indeed breaking the U.K. rule that steroids may not be used at any time on a horse in training. Whatever his mental process was is unclear except in your mind. To try to draw any equivilancy between his misdeeds and those relating to U.S. misdeeds is simply moronic. Until the complete travesties that occur on an almost daily basis in the U.S., think Cibelli just for one example, are dealt with denegrating European racing impress no-one.

          • salthebarber

            Matt, I am asking very basic questions. If Zarooni was confused, then why not others? Why are you not interested in seeing the BHA clear this up. Are they hiding something? If the use of anabolic steroids is widespread, then this will compromise the purity of the breed. Why give the BHA a free pass here? Matt, don’t get me wrong, this is not a U.S. vs. U.K. issue in my mind. It’s a U.K. issue.

          • PNkt

            Al Zarooni claimed he did not realise he was breaking the Rules. The BHA and Godolphin have both said they don’t believe him.

            The BHA have said they will be interviewing all staff at the yard, and Al Zarooni told the panel that two yard foremen and a vet’s assistant were involved.

          • Hopefieldstables

            The BHA has had out of comp testing for many years and they have targeted many leading yards.

            Out of comp testing is largely meant to deter because of course you cant test all. It cant guarantee someone wont try to beat the system.

            Zarooni is rather unique having come to UK racing just 3 years ago at the top. This is unlike most UK trainers who have been in the sport their whole lives working their way up. He would not be as familiar with the UK racing culture as most UK trainers. Out of comp steroid use is legal in other racing jurisdictions, thus not entirely inconceivable he would be oblivious. Nevertheless, irrelevant once the out of comp program is adequate.

            Having said that, I doubt Zarooni was the first trainer tempted to use steroids out of season. Howard Johnson was also banned for steroids used in this manner.

            What is important is detection and an appropriate penalty to deter its recurrence.

          • salthebarber

            Thanks for the info. I am getting it now that BHA is on top of this matter.

          • I agree completely. The issue here is not if someone used drugs. People are people. It is the way the drug-use was found, and the way the punishment was harsh and virtually immediate To compare it in any way to the US, other than superior, is ridiculous.

          • salthebarber

            Maureen, I have purposely left the U.S. out of this. PNkt, are you convinced that the use of anabolic sreroids is not widespread over there? I am assuming you from the UK.

          • Look at the punishment. And they do out of competition testing. I doubt many want to take the risk.

          • salthebarber

            Is this type of out of training testing done regularly over there? If it is that would close the loop substantially.

          • Lets hope Dutrows 10 years opened some eyes over here???…ty…

          • PNkt

            Yes I’m in the UK and I work in the racing industry, though not on the training side.

            I don’t think there is widespread use of steroids in British racing, of course I have no evidence to prove my claim as I don’t have access to every training establishment, but I know a lot of people working across the industry and I’ve not heard any rumours or stories to the contrary.

            I do think there could be more random testing, both in and out of training, but merely from a outside perception view rather than as an indicator that there are serious problems.

            One thing for sure, there should be worldwide harmonisation of medication/drug rules. It makes no sense that steroids are permitted in some nations and not others. Where is the level playing field?
            People are already asking questions about Australian form on the back of this week’s events. Can we, for example, take Black Caviar’s career at face value when there is a chance she has benefitted from steroids? I’m not casting aspersions against the great mare, but the question is being asked within the racing community here.

          • salthebarber

            PNkt, I appreciate your perspective and agree.

          • Matt Clarke

            If steroid use was widespread numerous other trainers would have had positive tests? They have not. Therefore your assertion is quite simply ridiculous. This was out of competition testing, not pre or post race. The BHA did its job, as always and the penalties metered out were swift and harsh. Your obvious bias lends absolutely no credibility to your opinions. If only U.S. racing authorities showed 10% of the oversight and accountability of the BHA.

          • salthebarber

            Matt, I don’t feel that taking a look at this issue critically means I am biased in any way. Quite franky, I am not sure what I might be biased against? I am not sure why you are so willing to sweep this issue under the rug. If you think that BHA has reason to believe this issue is not widespread, then enlighten me.

          • Matt Clarke

            Au contraire, You are the one suggesting that the BHA does nothing to prevent abuses and you are further clearly stating that steroid use is widespread in the U.K. You say this with no evidence, and more importantly obviously no knowledge of the workings of the the BHA and the British racing industry. The BHA conducts random out of competition testing routinely and yes I have first hand experience of such random testing. It is not for me to enlighten you. Simply do the research yourself before spouting nonsense.

          • I agree. And why has UK come under such scrutiny from salthebarber. Where is this same vigilant attack against US racing commissions. What business is it of ours? And how dare we point fingers and demand answers when we are the worst offenders?????

          • salthebarber

            Matt, Carlton answered my question.

          • salthebarber

            Matt, has the BHA done out of competition testing for other stables? If they have that clears up a lot? What you are saying implies that? Do you know of any?

          • Carlton S

            Raceday Testing

            Number of runners – 90,174
            Number of post-race samples – 7,182
            Number of positives – 14
            Positives as a percentage of runners – 0.19%

            There has been only two other cases of anabolic steroids being recorded in recent years. These are:

            1. When veterinary records showed that trainer Howard Johnson allowed horses to run under anabolic steroids in 2008 and 2009.

            2. When trainer Kevin Tork failed to ascertain the treatment given to one of his horses while not under his care and subsequently running one horse who had been treated with Stanozolol.
            Other positive results invariably involve the use of forms of medication. The use of anabolic steroids is prohibited at all times for any horse registered as ‘in training’ under the care of a trainer licensed by the BHA.

            Testing in Training

            Between 600-700 tests were carried out in 2012 as part of the ‘testing in training’ sampling programme. There could be a number of reasons why a yard could be idenitified for testing in training but we do not disclose the strategy for this.

            The average racehorse population in training at any one time was around 14,000 in 2012.

          • salthebarber

            Carlton, thank you for answering my question. I stand corrected on the issue.

    • SteveG

      “Other than that, I’ll assume that Europe’s enforcement against illegal drugs is lax.”
      Yet, this ruling against Al Zarooni (and the affected horses) is evidence against your assumption & proves otherwise. Unless you think an 8 year ban & 6 months per horse is lax.
      What evidence are you speaking of when you say all stables must be tested immediately for the BHA to retain credibility? Guilt by the flimsiest of associations? I think you’re reaching for a conspiracy (of steroidal proportions) where there is none.

      • salthebarber

        Steve, I will not feel comfortable about U.K. racing if they don’t reveal more about their motivation to test this stable. The first question that came to my mind is how many other trainers don’t know the law? My second question is how long has Zarooni been using these drugs undetected? These are pretty basic.

        • PNkt

          It has already been stated that the stable was tested due to a previous positive test (for a painkiller) which came to light in a post race test last year. It is BHA policy to carry out random testing at any stable which has a previous infraction on their records.

          It is also possible that they had a tip-off from an employee.

    • Hopefieldstables

      Zarooni has only been in place for 3 years. Out of comp testing by its very nature will have a lag between rule breaking and detection. Zarooni was punished last year for a painkiller positive raising suspicion. The BHA out of comp testing has been in place many years and leading yards have been targeted. This is exemplary regulatory action. Just hard for some to admit it.

  • in for a nickel

    Jane C. is so glad she left and came to the good ole USA

    • Don Reed

      Who is Jane C., and how can Drug-trow fall in love with her?

      • johnnyknj

        Cibelli and very unlikely

        • Don Reed

          Oops. You’re right. Forgot about that.

  • Buckley racing

    Oh how I wish we had a NATIONAL level authority in U.S. racing with members who have the fortitude to do this!!

  • Eugenio Colombo

    On Monday, April 22nd, the BHA confirmed the positivity of 11 horses trained by Al Zarooni.
    On Thursday, April 25th, final sentence: 8 years suspension!

    That is the way to protect the integrity of the sport! Unfortunately, in America, the racing board is run by a bunch of incompetent buffons, where the absurd, unacceptable length of time for guilty decisions and proper suspensions are only damaging the image of our sport.

    “Dura Lex sed Lex” was a Roman Empire comment, valid after 2000 years.

    The fast solution and the total transparency of the BHA protocol proves what a bunch of buffons the American Stewards are.

  • Don Reed
















    • Matt Clarke

      Administered drugs not allowed by the BHA. Detected by proactive OUT OF COMPETITION testing. Your post simply states what everybody already knows. Was there a point?

      • Matt Clarke

        U.S horses are allowed to RACE with allowable levels of steroids.

        • Matt

          Don, 95% of ALL horses that run at ANY track in the U.S. (DRUGGED)

      • Don Reed

        Visual impact.

  • Csun24

    Might be time for Godolphin, Darley, Sheikh Mohammed, Crisford, et al. to make overtune to one GRAHAM MOTION to see if he’s ready and available for work ASAP!!

  • jttf

    a very simple and straight forward justice system. 6 months for every horse. and 6 months for every horse al zarooni trained, which adds up to 7.5 years. lets just make it 8 years.

  • Kingturf

    I think Godolphin has supported racing world wide and this was the first time I could remember their horses linked to doping. The Sheik has more money than all the top owners put together. He built his own breeder’s cup out his own pocket with the Dubai World Cup and undercard. So doping for purse money was not the issue. If his horses are trained up for the Breeder’s Cup and run this November, I will not be stupid and best against. Back in the days before social media, I wrote the Sheik and got a personal response from him along, the man loves his horses and has been a great ambassador for the Thoroughbred racing. So you hateful clowns that believe Goldolphin, Darley and the Sheik needs punishment. They have, because their trainer was caught doping, their names has been linked as a cheater. Zarooni career is done!

    • Questions that arise:

      1. If the sheik is so anti-drugs, why did he keep on a trainer after two positive tests in the last 12 months? Surely we are not expected to believe he and his racing manager were not aware of those results.

      2. The racing manager said the trainer administered steroids to 10 or so horses “in pre-training at the beginning of last winter” but the sheik was not aware. When did the racing manager know, and were those horses among the 15 which are suspended?

      3. The 11 horses had “traces” of steroids in their systems that presumably would have been cleared by the time of their races. What are the chances Camelot lost the St. Leger to a horse that had trained on steroids but had received the drugs in a time span sufficient to clear them from his system before the race? (And yes, Camelot received a a bad ride.)

      • Lynn

        Does the violation meet the punishment? “Traces, of steroids in their systems that presumably would have been cleared by the time of their races”.

        Are Goldolphin horses being held to a different standard? Ask the Queen.

        HM The Queen. … sample was taken from Moonlit Path which tested positive for ….. had been notified of a positive result showing the presence of tranex on the 19th February 2009.

        One of the horses (Moonlit Path) that is owned by The Queen of England was found to have been treated the day of the race with the anti bleeding medication Tranex. There wasn’t all that much fuss about the drugs in the Queen’s horse.

      • Kingturf

        While I do agree about the knowing or lack there of, I believe the Sheik has over 300 horses in training world wide. But this trainer has done a disservice to such a big racing outfit and if we look back on the rules; This was a much needed punishment for the trainer. But as some has mentioned before, in our great country the trainer would “Lawyer” up and stay on appeal for the 8 years.

        • PNkt

          Far more than 300: there are around 450 in Newmarket alone! Worldwide the Sheikh, under his own name as well as Godolphin’s, probably has pushing 1,000 horses in training!

    • Sorry. Make it, expected to believe the sheik was not aware of the positives.

  • betterthannothing

    Well done BHA. American racing should be ashamed of itself.

  • Can you imagine this happening here? Not just the trainer suspended, but the horses, too? This is what we need in the US — as well as a national regulatory body to replace state racing commissions. Well done, UK.

    • 7Cents

      FWIW, in New Mexico quit a few horses have been suspended after bad tests since Jan 1. Most of the early infractions occured in the fall, but wih testing time being elongated here, plus waiting on splitsamples, most hearings were not heald until after Jan 1.

  • Richard C

    You have to wonder if the BHA will start receiving “tips” from people on the backstretch — this penalty may start opening eyes – and mouths – for those who can drop a dime on scofflaws playing fast and hard with the rules.

  • forestwildcat

    Swift and sure , the way it should be

  • Smitty

    Maybe he will come to Ky.Remember Biancome,he got run out of Europe and Asia,and they wellcomed him here with open arms.

  • and this is exactly what needs to happen here. if horses can run in the uk without drugs they can run anywhere. thank gawd there is sense somewhere in this sport!

  • This ordeal makes the powers that be running T-Bred Horse in America look real STUPID and just goes to prove CHEATING isn’t that big a deal…I still firmly believe they should be locked up for FIXING a Horse Race…

  • Mimi Hunter

    I’m happy to see the penalty dished out so fast, but there are a few things more that I’d like to ask: Does Al Zarooni still work for Godolphin? Steriods promote growth – one of the side effects is something called spontaneous fractures – usually of the long [leg] bones. Will they do bone density scans on the horses – this, I don’t think relys on withdrawel time.

  • PNkt

    Just to clear up something on the previous offence Al Zarooni had committed and people questioning why nothing was done then.

    The positive test was for a trace amount of painkiller which was nonetheless over the permitted limit. It was taken as a case as of accidental contamination, most likely caused by not washing out feed buckets thoroughly. He was given a fine.

  • PNkt

    Bobby Flay sums it all up nicely in a letter in today’s TDN:

    “I was thrilled to see Sheikh Mohammed’s reaction to the allegations that one of his trainers was caught using illegal drugs in out-of-competition testing. Every owner must react the same way if their horses are being abused with illegal substances or if their trainer is trying to take an edge in competition.

    It’s the people who fuel the sport financially who should be, but somehow aren’t, in charge of how this game is run. That must end now. It’s the people who buy stallion seasons and buy the mares, who raise the foals and pay the farms, the people who battle at auctions and pay the vets. It’s the people who pay the trainers and pay for their horses retirement who need
    to be in charge. If you’re an owner, stand up and let your team know: you will not tolerate illegal drugs for one more day. Sheikh Mohammed is busy running a region of the world, but he had a few minutes in his day to let his trainer know his tolerance was zero.

    I like to bet on horses, which as we know is not a sure thing. If you’re looking for a wager that can’t lose, bet the house on Godolphin never having another positive illegal drug result.

    Bravo, Sheikh Mohammed.

    Bobby Flay, Proud member of NYRA’s Equine Health and Safety Committee and Racing Committee.

  • ace

    Chris Grove gets 6 months and he gets 8 years ? Too bad his father wasn’t a steward !!!!



    • Black Helen

      Don’t think the purse losses will hurt S Mo….. But what about the 3yr old filly who is now denied a chance at history??

      • Roisin

        Perhaps she would not be in a position for a chance at history in the first place since she was on steroids. And then again, she may be that talented without steroids. This situation casts so many doubts and many questions will go unanswered.

  • PNkt

    Channel 4 Racing have just broadcast an interview with Simon Crisford. Apparently it will be up on their website shortly:

  • Allison Roulston

    So Sheikh Mohammed was “appalled”? Methinks the Sheik doth protest too much. When it comes to steroids the sheik and Al Zarooni are hardly virgins.

    As an informed poster on another board reported: “Sheik Mo himself was suspended for 6 months for winning an endurance race with a horse that was given the same steroids his recently suspended race horses received. Sheik Mo’s suspension came during “event testing” not “out of competition” testing and the assistant trainer in his endurance horse stable at the time was the very same Mahmood Al Zarooni.”

    Given their shared history w/steroids of course Al Zarooni was acting with the tacit approval of the Sheik despite any contrived appearance of deniability. .

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