Newmarket was pitched into further controversy Monday after trainer Gerard
Butler admitted to using medication that contains anabolic steroids on some of
In a reveal to the Independent newspaper, the established conditioner
explained how he administered the substance on veterinary advice and now faces a
British Horseracing Authority inquiry. The medication in question, Sungate, was
used to treat the joints of four colts and it is understood that the same drug
is likely to have been used on several horses across the town.
“I have been totally candid throughout, and it was I who told the BHA that I
had treated four colts in December and January,” Butler told the daily. “I’m not
trying to defend myself, just to explain what happened. And I must emphasize I
was advised in good faith by my vets. It was an unpardonable misjudgment, purely
to cut corners in what is a very expensive treatment.
“I have been very uncomfortable over the past few days, hearing and reading
about the Al Zarooni case. I feel people need to know about what has happened in
my yard. I know I’m obliged to satisfy myself that each and every treatment is
within the rules and I failed to do so in this case. But I am certain that this
medication has been misunderstood by many others. And I just hope that the BHA
is being suitably rigorous in establishing whether that is indeed the case.
“It did not cross my mind that there could be any problem with this
medication. And, judging from the fact that the BHA said nothing about it when
they saw my medical book, it does not seem to have crossed their minds, either.
“Little Black Book ran on August 4, and won a couple of weeks later, so they
would have known he was clearly in training at the time. In the medical book, I
signed that I had authorized use of the drug, and my vet had countersigned for
its administration. Sungate had for some time been widely used in their
practice, with very beneficial results for joint injuries.”
The BHA responded by issuing the following statement:
“It is the general policy of the BHA not to comment publicly regarding
ongoing investigations or speculation surrounding potential investigations.
However, in light of reports and speculation (Monday), and because of recent
events regarding horses formerly trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, it is felt
necessary to confirm that a separate investigation is being held into a number
of positive samples obtained from horses at Gerard Butler’s yard, following a
testing in training visit on February 20.
“While conscious of the need not to prejudice the outcome of the current
enquiry, the investigation has established that the source of the positive
samples was a veterinary product, licensed in the EU and legally imported for
use by a veterinary practice, the initial administration of which was
recommended by a vet. This investigation remains ongoing and a number other
parties have been and will be interviewed, including representatives of the
veterinary practice in question.
“One of the objectives of this investigation is to clarify the extent to
which this product has been distributed and administered to horses in training.
Immediately following the results of the testing in training, the BHA, in
conjunction with the National Trainers Federation, notified trainers that the
product in question contains an anabolic steroid and should not be used on any
horse in training.”