British racing’s ruling body has no plans to formally interview Dubai ruler and owner of the sport’s largest stable, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) chief executive Paul Bittar wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday.
Racing has been rocked by the doping scandal surrounding one of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Operation trainers Mahmood al-Zarooni, who received an eight-year ban on Thursday after admitting to ordering the administering of steroids to 15 of his 200-horse stable based at English racing headquarters Newmarket.
Sheikh Mohammed – who started Godolphin in 1992 and has seen their blue silks carried to victory in over 2,000 races, including 202 Group One winners in 14 countries – has been left deeply angered by the scandal and ordered a complete in-house review of procedures since it emerged last Monday.
Bittar said that while the 63-year-old Sheikh would not be formally interviewed, they would be seeking to talk to him.
“We are not planning to interview Sheikh Mohammed at this stage,” wrote Bittar.
“We will meet with him to understand his plans for this (Al Zarooni’s) yard (Godolphin has another one in Newmarket run by his long-time trainer former policeman Saeed bin Suroor) and this far he and Godolphin’s Racing Manager have been as co-operative as they could have been,” added the Australian.
Bittar said that there was still a lot more work to be done but he would not speculate whether further charges would be brought.
Al Zarooni had named three relatively junior members of staff, a vet and two Godolphin foremen, in his hearing on Thursday.
Bittar, who held influential posts in New Zealand and Australian racing before being appointed to his present role in January 2012, refuted suggestions that because of Sheikh Mohammed’s status and influence in the industry, the case had been rushed through to avoid it dragging on and keeping the Dubai ruler’s name in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
“People have asked why the BHA moved so fast in the Godolphin case and the simple fact of the matter is we could not afford to have Mahmood al Zarooni left in charge of the stable for a prolonged period once it had been established that he had ordered the administration of the anabolic steroids to horses in his care,” said Bittar.
Bittar added that by exposing this case the BHA had shown that no one, no matter the size of their operation, was above the law.
“No one in racing is outside the Rules and if this case proves anything, it is that,” he said.
“The events on Thursday would not have taken place if we took that view. Sheikh Mohammed’s trainer has been banned for eight and his horses suspended for six months.”
Bittar also said he would be pushing for anomalies in doping laws in different countries to be regulated into a globally unified set of rules.
“We will also encourage other jurisdictions to employ the same rules.
“In Australia for example this would not have shown up as a positive test (the Australians allow horses to be given steroids when they are in training but not actively racing) which we find a complete anomaly.
“We can press for this through the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and their veterinary committee.”