Newmarket: Trainer Gerard Butler under investigation as horses test positive for steroids

Gerard Butler's Newmarket yard is currently at the centre of a British Horseracing Authority investi

Gerard Butler's Newmarket yard is currently at the centre of a British Horseracing Authority investigation, it has been confirmed. - Credit: PA

NEWMARKET horse trainer Gerard Butler is to be investigated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) after a number of samples taken from his yard earlier this year tested positive for banned steroids.

Butler told the Independent in an “unpardonable misjudgement” that four of his horses had been treated with Sungate, a joint treatment which contains a banned substance, on the advice of his vet.

Butler reckons he may not be the only trainer to have fallen foul of the rules with this medication as vets in his training base of Newmarket regularly service numerous yards in the town.

Butler’s admission comes hot on the heels of the British Horseracing Authority’s decision to ban trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni for eight years after he admitted to using anabolic steroids on some of his horses.

A BHA statement said: “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 today, 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.

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“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.”

Butler had told the Independent: “I have been totally candid throughout, and it was I who told the BHA that I had treated four colts in December and January.

“I’m not trying to defend myself, just to explain what happened. And I must emphasise I was advised in good faith by my vets. It was an unpardonable misjudgement, 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.”

Butler believes ‘Sungate’, the medication in question he used on veterinary advice to treat horses’ joints, has been “misunderstood by many others”; he believes that more than 100 horses across the headquarters of British Flat racing have been given the same drug.

He said: “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 authorised 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.”