In light of the Gerard Butler investigation, the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) has stated that they will be closing loopholes in their current anti-doping rules. This year there has been a total of nine trainers, based in Newmarket, that have managed to avoid any disciplinary charges even though they have used the drug Sungate. The drug contains a banned anabolic steroid and was given to 43 horses on the advice of a local Newmarket vet.
The BHA have announced changes to their rules on doping this Wednesday. Notable changes will allow the BHA to charge trainers with administering a banned substance even if a horse returns a clean sample.
The BHA’s Director of Integrity Adam Brickell stated: “The fact that charges could not be brought against trainers even though there was evidence that prohibited substances had been administered to horses in their care or control clearly needed to be addressed.”
The new rules allow the BHA to take action against trainers if they see sufficient evidence showing the use of banned substances. As the Butler investigation has been so highly publicised this action was expected but the BHA has been criticised for not closing the loophole regarding this issue, which was identified over two years ago, when trainer Howard Johnson was banned for a total of four years in a similar case.
Robin Mounsey, the BHA's spokesman, said. “Had their actions and the corresponding evidence supported it, trainers in the Sungate inquiry could have been charged with acting in a manner prejudicial to horse racing but that was not the case. The tightening of the rules, while arguably overdue, ensures the BHA is now placed to deal with any such issue appropriately.”
The rules governing the use of steroids in British racing differ from many other countries. In Australia, Dubai and the U.S it has been common practice to treat racehorses with steroids when out of training (resting periods). However, recently Australia’s rules on steroid use has been redrafted to include a ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy on their use in training, competition and rest periods, which is effectively a total ban from the 1st May 2014.