Godolphin’s Al Zarooni banned for 8 years by BHA

Trainer apologises to British racing and Sheikh Mohammed as 15 horses suspended for six months after positive tests for steroids

Trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni arrives for a Disciplinary Panel Hearing at the British Horse Racing Authority in London. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni arrives for a Disciplinary Panel Hearing at the British Horse Racing Authority in London. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters


Mahmood Al Zarooni has been disqualified for eight years by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority after admitting administering anabolic steroids to horses in his care.

The Godolphin trainer said he had made a “catastrophic error” in using the banned drugs on a number of runners in his yard, including former Qipco 1000 Guineas favourite Certify.

Al Zarooni was called before the BHA at a hastily-arranged hearing this afternoon after 11 horses returned positive samples for ethylestranol and stanozolol following a random testing at his Newmarket yard earlier this month. Further admissions were made by Al Zarooni to the BHA this week surrounding four other horses that had not been tested.

All 15 horses were banned from running for six months from April 9th.

“I would like to apologise to Sheikh Mohammed, as well as to all those involved with Godolphin and the public who follow British Racing,” Al Zarooni said in a statement. “I accept that it was my responsibility to be aware of the rules regarding the use of prohibited substances in Britain. I can only apologise and repeat what I said in my statement earlier in the week, I have made a catastrophic error.”

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford described it as “a terrible day for British racing” and “an awful situation that Godolphin has found themselves in.

“Mr Al Zarooni acted with awful recklessness and caused tremendous damage, not only to Godolphin and British racing. I think it will take a very long time for Godolphin to regain the trust of the British public. We’re shocked and completely outraged by the actions he has taken.”

Crisford also confirmed Al Zarooni had mentioned the names of three other people — two foremen and a veterinary assistant — who were “involved”. However, he said the assistant had not broken any rules because he was unaware what substance he was administering.

Godolphin principal Sheikh Mohammed locked down Al Zarooni’s stables earlier this week, saying he was “appalled and angered” by events.

Al Zarooni (37) was officially charged with rule breaches related to prohibited substances, duty to keep medication records and conduct prejudicial to racing.

In a statement this evening BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said: “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.”

Bittar said the investigation “established that the substances in question were administered on the instruction of Mahmood Al Zarooni.” He welcomed “the proactive response” from Sheikh Mohammed and said the BHA would advise “Godolphin of necessary changes to its procedures and controls where appropriate.”

The statement added: “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.”

All the horses, which also include top stayer Opinion Poll, have had their bans backdated to April 9th, the date of their first test.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operations and regulation, said: “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.”