LONDON (AP) — Less than a week after the Godolphin steroids scandal, British horse racing is conducting another major doping investigation after trainer Gerard Butler admitted giving horses a product that contained anabolic steroids.
The British Horseracing Authority confirmed Monday that a "number of positive samples" were obtained from horses at Butler's stable following a confession by the trainer.
The case emerged after Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni was banned for eight years this week after he admitted to administering anabolic steroids to 15 horses in his care.
"Over the last few days I have been very uneasy about the Al Zarooni case and felt that I needed to let the general public know what has happened in my yard," Butler told the BBC. "Now I would like only to concentrate on helping the BHA with their investigation."
The initial investigation established that the source of the positive samples was a veterinary product that was recommended by a vet and legally imported.
"I was advised in good faith by my vets," Butler was quoted as saying by the Independent newspaper. "It was an unpardonable misjudgment, purely to cut corners in what is a very expensive treatment."
Butler said the medication, called Sungate, that was applied to treat joint injuries is "misunderstood" by many in the industry.
"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," Butler said. "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."
Butler was told that four of his fillies had tested positive for a prohibited substance after the BHA made an unannounced visit to Butler's stable in February.
"This investigation remains ongoing and a number of other parties have been and will be interviewed, including representatives of the veterinary practice in question," the BHA said in a statement. "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."
Butler, who is based in Newmarket, said he has been told that more than 100 horses in the area could have received the same treatment.
Trainers have been warned the product shouldn't be used because it contains an anabolic steroid, however trainer John Berry said that all Butler is "guilty of is taking bad advice."
"There are two different types of steroid — anabolic steroids that build muscle and corticosteroids that are anti-inflammatory," Berry said. "Corticosteroids are legal for horses, although obviously you can't use them in close proximity to races.
"You often hear of sportspeople having cortisone injections for injuries. Gerard has been given a drug by a vet and told it's a legal drug. It has been injected into a joint, which shows it was not being used as an anabolic steroid as that is not how they work."
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris