A hearing into the most serious doping scandal to hit British racing in recent memory could take place as early as tomorrow.
Newmarket-based trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni admitted on Monday he had administered anabolic sterioids to 11 horses owned by Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai and head of the vast Godolphin racing empire.
Sheikh Mohammed said he was appalled to discover the extent of the use of outlawed drugs and both Godolphin and the British Horseracing Authority appear keen for the case to be resolved quickly. The BHA were last night preparing to issue charges.
The 11 horses, including the unbeaten filly Certify, which had been fancied to win the 1,000 Guineas on May 5, have been banned from racing and it has emerged that Al Zarooni, who trains more than 150 of Sheikh Mohammed's horses, will not have any runners before his case is heard.
The 11 positive tests were taken by BHA officials who visited Al Zarooni's yard specifically because two horses he trained had tested positive for banned substances during 2012. Al Zarooni was fined £2,000 last August for those offences and he now faces a life ban from the sport in Britain.
BHA drug testers make around 700 stable visits a year, prompted either by intelligence or previous breaches. Steroids are generally used to strengthen a weak horse, but the rules prohibit them from being used on a horse in training. Al Zarooni said on Monday that he was unaware that he had breached the rules.
Al Zarooni runs one of two stables near Newmarket at which Sheikh Mohammed's horses are trained. The BHA said it had no plans to test horses at the other Godolphin stables, where Saeed Bin Surror is trainer.
The Godolphin drugs case has come as the biggest shock in British racing in years.
For Sheikh Mohammed, it is an acute embarrassment. Only recently he withdrew his support of the Breeders' Cup organisation over their refusal to crack down on the use of the drug Lasix.
Lincolnshire-based trainer James Given, a qualified vet, said of the steroid: "It is, without doubt, a performance-enhancing drug...
"It's not just active while the drug is in the body – and certainly many of these drugs will persist in the body for several months – but it has an effect on muscle development beyond its natural capacity.
"The number of horses that tested positive shows that it wasn't what one might term an error with a single horse." (© Daily Telegraph, London)