The sheikh, operating in his capacity as Vice President and ruler of Dubai, outlined a decree (a wonderful Middle Eastern term) that will make the use of drugs in horse racing a criminal offence in the United Arab Emirates. The move is the latest in a series of efforts to make a new start following the positive tests on 22 horses trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, and the subsequent ban imposed on the trainer. Godolphin has already closed the Al Zarooni yard and had all the horses there and at Saeed bin Suroor’s stable tested.
Speaking about the new law Sheikh Mohammed said, “I have always believed in the integrity of horse racing and all other horse sports. 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 Authority welcomed the news, saying, “Any move to tighten the restrictions on the use of prohibited substances in international regimes would be welcomed.”
With no future use of steroids in the UAE, America and Australia remain the two leading countries that do allow their administration, though not when a horse is actually in training. They will come under increasing pressure to follow suit, most notably at the conference of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities in the autumn, where Honk Kong has already served notice that it will be seeking a worldwide ban. The BHA will support that approach, and it now seems likely that the UAE will follow suit.