The British Horseracing Authority released its report into the use of Sungate, a drug produced in Italy, which can be used here by veterinary practices when imported under licence. The problem in racing is that it contains stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, and therefore a banned substance under the Rules of Racing.
The use of Sungate came to light through a routine testing in training visit to Gerard Butler’s yard in February. The drug showed up in nine of his horses. Butler explained that his vets practice, Rossdale and Partners, had prescribed the product and its use was shown in the medical records passport for each horse.
The BHA acted swiftly, putting out a note to all trainers through the National Trainer’s Federation about Sungate, essentially warning them that, although legal for use in the treatment of horses, it contained a banned substance, and therefore should not be used on racehorses.
BHA officials also met with staff from the practice, and learned that Sungate had been recommended for use on horses with other trainers. That’s hardly surprising; it was a legal substance, and the practice had 38 Newmarket trainers on its books. A meeting with those trainers identified that 43 horses spread across another nine yards were treated with Sungate. Again, every treatment was entered in the medical records, and confirmed by reference to practice records.
Adam Brickell, Director of Integrity, Legal and Risk at the BHA in summing up the position, and explained why no action would be taken. In a statement he said, “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. 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.”He recognised that the investigation had taken a long time to complete, and added, “We acknowledge that the cooperation of the trainers in this investigation has made the process less difficult than it might have been.
Whilst the conclusion of the investigation brought relief for nine trainers, Gerard Butler still faces a BHA disciplinary enquiry, for which a date has yet to be set. This is because he faces charges “based on a different set of facts and circumstances to those which were identified during this investigation.” Butler is alleged to have injected four horses himself, even though he is not a registered vet, and failing to keep proper records of treatment for five horses. For Butler, the wait to learn of his future continues.