St Leger winner Encke among seven more Godolphin horses to test positive
Camelot’s attempt to win the Triple Crown was frustrated by the Al Zarooni-trained horse
Last year’s Ladbrokes St Leger winner Encke among seven more horses from Mahmood Al Zarooni stable to test positive for anabolic steroids. Photograph: Getty Images
The capacity of the Godolphin doping scandal both to shock and amaze shows no sign of diminishing. The initial revelation that 15 horses at Mahmood Al Zarooni’s Moulton Paddocks stable in Newmarket had tested positive for anabolic steroids was extraordinary and so too the speed – just four days – with which the trainer was charged, tried and banned for eight years.
Then came the unexpected news that Zarooni was planning an appeal and yesterday we learned that seven more horses at the yard, including Encke, last year’s St Leger winner, have since tested positive for steroids too.
The latest discovery is, in its way, the most remarkable. Not just because of what it suggests about the sheer scale of the doping operation at Moulton Paddocks, but also because it hints at how little we still know about what went on at Zarooni’s yard and also how much may never be known about performances like that of Encke, who frustrated Camelot’s attempt to win the Triple Crown.
The possibility that racing was denied a Triple Crown winner in Camelot, the Leger runner-up, by a horse who had been doped with steroids was raised as soon as news of the initial tests at Moulton Paddocks was released.
Even when the final reports have been published and racing starts to try to move on, however, the question about Encke and whether he was doped before winning the St Leger is likely to remain. And, thanks to the poisonous nature of anabolic steroids, which leave suspicions lingering when all traces of the drug have gone, it is a question that will probably never have an answer.
On the face of it, seven more positives to add to the 15 involved in the initial case against Zarooni is not an overwhelming number. Saeed bin Suroor’s string, of an equivalent size, has also been tested, with no positive results. When set in the context of time, however, the implication is that the doping operation was being conducted on an extraordinary scale.
All seven of the latest positives were for stanozolol, which can remain in a horse’s system for up to 40 days. Zarooni is also known to have used ethylestranol, which clears the system much more rapidly, usually in less than a week. The evidence of the initial hearing into the case, meanwhile, suggested that Zarooni used stanozolol on colts and ethylestranol on fillies.
The British Horseracing Authority’s original testing team visited Moulton Paddocks on April 9th and took samples from 45 horses, of which 11 tested positive for either stanozolol or ethylestranol (Zarooni himself later added four extra names to his charge sheet). The BHA then started testing the rest of the string on April 29th.
Assuming – if we can – that no horses were doped after April 9th, any trace of ethylestranol would have been long gone by April 29th. Even stanozolol would have been starting to disappear, as some horses will be clean after as little as 20 days. So the fact that seven were still positive at least 20 days after the first round of tests suggests that the doping had been going on until the moment the BHA team arrived on April 9th.