DUBAI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has issued a decree that will make use of drugs in horse racing a criminal offence.
The decree follows tests in the United Kingdom that revealed 22 thoroughbred racehorses owned by Godolphin, the stables founded by Sheikh Mohammed, had failed tests for anabolic steroids.
“I have always believed in the integrity of horse racing and all other horse sports,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“I have, in light of the unfortunate recent event, directed that a decree be issued making, with immediate effect, the import, sale, purchase or use of anabolic steroids in horse sports a criminal offence under UAE penal laws.
“Regrettably, one of my stables in Europe has recently fallen below the standards that I expect and will tolerate.”
A spokesman for the British Horseracing Association praised the move: “Any move to tighten the restrictions on the use of prohibited substances in international regimes would be welcomed.”
The trainer responsible for the horses, Mahmood Al Zarooni, has admitted that he made a “catastrophic mistake” and is appealing against an eight-year ban from the British Horseracing Authority.
“As soon as the internal investigations are complete and the requisite preemptory rules are put in place, Godolphin will go from strength to strength and lead, once again, adherence to the highest standards in that gracious sport,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
The BHA confirmed that between April 29 and May 2, blood tests were carried out on all 391 horses owned by Godolphin, and seven more animals tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.
Those, and the 15 already found positive for the substance last month, will be suspended from racing for six months.
“This is a matter we have already raised with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and we look forward to progressing the issue with our international colleagues,” the BHA spokesman said.
Dr Abdulaziz Al Muhairi, secretary general of the UAE National Anti-Doping Organisation, said it was clear from the start that the country’s rulers did not condone doping.
“This is a very strong commitment from the UAE,” Dr Al Muhairi said. “I don’t know of any country which has this sort of law. We hope that all other countries will follow this move.”
He said he was not aware of whether his organisation would be responsible for testing in future, as until now it had only tested jockeys.
The horses were kept at Moulton Paddocks, run by Mr Al Zarooni. Horses trained by another Godolphin trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, were cleared.
Mr Al Zarooni said on the Godolphin website that he was not aware it was against the rules to dope animals outside of races.
“I deeply regret what has happened,” he said last month. “I have made a catastrophic error.
“Because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realise that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing.
“I can only apologise for the damage this will cause to Godolphin and to racing generally.”
In a statement on the Godolphin website at the time, Sheikh Mohammed said he was “appalled and angered” and said there was “no excuse for any deliberate violation”.