Updated on 04/25/2013 2:44PM

Godolphin trainer Al Zarooni gets eight-year ban after horses test positive for steroids

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Mahmood Al Zarooni, who rose from relative obscurity to train for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing stable in recent years, was banned for eight years by the British Horseracing Authority on Thursday after 11 horses in his care tested positive for banned substances earlier this month.

The suspension was announced after Al Zarooni appeared before a disciplinary hearing at the BHA’s headquarters in London.

Earlier Thursday, the BHA announced that 15 of Al Zarooni’s horses were suspended from racing until early October. The horses included the 11 who tested positive for the banned anabolic steroids ethylestranol and stanozolol and four others whom Al Zarooni had told officials were given the same medication.

On Monday, the BHA announced that 11 horses trained by Al Zarooni in Newmarket, England, had tested positive in out-of-competition testing for the anabolic steroids. On the same day, Al Zarooni released a statement on the Godolphin website accepting blame for the positive tests. He said in the statement that he made a “catastrophic error.”

Al Zarooni, 37, was charged with multiple breaches of rules related to liability of trainers regarding prohibited substances, duty to keep medication records, and conduct prejudicial to horse racing.

The case against Al Zarooni took less than a month to complete. Samples were taken from the horses April 9, and the charges against Al Zarooni were announced Monday.

On Wednesday, Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, said none of the horses from Al Zarooni’s stable would be allowed to start until precautionary drug tests were completed.

Al Zarooni, an Emirati, had risen in prominence in the Godolphin operation in recent years, fueled by a win in the 2012 Dubai World Cup with Monterosso.
The suspension of the horses in Al Zarooni’s care was made retroactive to April 9 and ends Oct. 9. The ban essentially keeps the horses out of racing through most of the European turf flat-racing season, which ends in November.

The banned horses are Artigiano, Bathrat Amal, Certify, Comitas, Desert Blossom, Fair Hill, Ghostflower, Opinion Poll, Orkney Island, Restraint of Trade, Sashiko, Sweet Rose, Tearless, Vacationer, and Valley of Queens.

Certify, who won the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last September, is the most prominent horse who tested positive for ethylestranol. The 3-year-old filly Desert Blossom, who finished third in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes in 2012, also tested positive for ethylestranol.

The four horses who tested positive for stanozolol in BHA tests included Artigiano, who was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last November, and Opinion Poll, who won the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan Racecourse in 2012.