Nine British racehorse trainers who used an imported veterinary product containing the anabolic steroid, stanozolol, will not be charged under the rules of racing, authorities have decided.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it had ended its inquiry into the use of Sungate, a proprietary product legally imported from Italy and marketed for use in joint conditions.
The authority said it became aware of the nature of Sungate and its use on horses in training following a visit to Gerard Butler’s yard in February as part of its testing-in-training sampling programme, from which nine horses produced positive tests for stanozolol.
It became apparent that a veterinary practice, which had legally imported Sungate under licence into Britain, was prescribing the product and had recommended its initial administration to horses in training, the authority said.
The authority met with representatives of the veterinary practice in question and became aware that Butler was not the only trainer to whom it was recommended that Sungate be administered to horses.
The authority identified and met with 38 trainers who were known to use the same veterinary practice.
The investigation identified that 43 horses from nine trainers had been treated with Sungate by veterinary surgeons and on veterinary advice since early 2010.
Its use was recorded in the medication records that must be kept by trainers in accordance with the rules, and in the clinical histories of the horses which were obtained, with the trainers’ consent, from the veterinary practice.
Based on the information gathered during the investigation, the authority concluded that there were no grounds for charges to be brought.
“Having carefully considered our options under the rules, including taking legal advice and reviewing previous cases, we have concluded that there would no reasonable prospect of a Disciplinary Panel finding that these trainers have breached the Rules of Racing,” the authority’s director of integrity, Adam Brickell, said.
“Under the current Rules of Racing, in the absence of any positive samples, charges could only be brought in cases such as this if there is evidence that the trainer concerned has acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct, or good reputation of the sport.
“In these cases there was no such evidence. This is because the nine trainers in question only allowed their horses to be administered with the product on the advice of – and by – veterinary surgeons to treat orthopaedic conditions.
“Following the completion of this investigation, and the ongoing disciplinary proceedings involving Gerard Butler, consideration will be given as to whether the current rules provide sufficient and appropriate protection against the type of scenario highlighted in this case.
“In addition, while acknowledging that veterinary surgeons are not currently accountable to the BHA, we will consider how we can reduce the risk of incidents such as this happening again.”
Brickell noted that charges still outstanding against Gerard Butler were based on a different set of alleged facts and circumstances.
Those charges also relate to the use of Sungate and the nine Butler-trained horses that tested positive for stanozolol. Butler is charged with acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing by administering the steroid.
He is further accused of injecting the horses’ joints himself, contrary to the rules of racing as he is not a vet. He also stands accused of two counts of failing to keep a record of treatments for several horses.
A date for this hearing has yet to be announced.
Brickell continued: “Meanwhile, all licensed trainers are reminded that if a prohibited substance is found to be present in the system of any horse under their care or control, that would constitute a breach of the Rules of Racing.
“They are also reminded that it is their responsibility as licensed trainers to be familiar with the rules that govern which substances can and cannot be given to horses under their care and control.”
He said the Sungate inquiry had been lengthy due to the number of horses and trainers involved, “However, we acknowledge that the co-operation of the trainers in this investigation has made the process less difficult than it might have been.”
The interim chief veterinary officer for the BHA, Jenny Hall, said: “It is important to note that the product at the centre of this investigation is a treatment designed to be injected into a horse’s joints, and is very different to that which might be used in an intramuscular anabolic steroid product.
“The recommended dose of Sungate varies according to the size of the joint to be treated, but a typical intra-muscular injectable anabolic steroid product has around ten times the concentration of anabolic agent compared to Sungate, and a recommended dosage would generally contain around fifty times the volume of anabolic agent administered in one Sungate treatment.
“In addition, it follows that when a veterinary product has been used to treat an orthopaedic condition there is a recovery period associated with the treatment before a horse can return to the racecourse.
“The clinical histories of the horses in question confirmed that in each case where Sungate had been administered by veterinary surgeons it had indeed been done so to treat an orthopaedic condition.
“However, it remains a matter of serious concern that a veterinary practice recommended and administered a product containing anabolic steroids, which are prohibited substances under the Rules of Racing, to these horses.”
Details of the charges being brought against Butler can be found here.