Thursday, March 6, 2014 - Mark Humph
Defra’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the body that seized 124 unlicensed drugs from Sheikh Mohammed’s Newmarket stables in August, has revealed it had no input into Lord Stevens’s subsequent investigation for racing’s most powerful owner.
Further, the VMD disputes a claim recorded in the report that the seized drugs were not intended for use in the United Kingdom.
Last autumn Sheikh Mohammed commissioned Lord Stevens’s intelligence services company Quest to investigate the background to drugs raids at Moorley Farm East, Newmarket, by VMD and of his private plane by border officials, as well as the steroids scandal leading to the eight-year ban for disgraced Godolphin racehorse trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni.
Quest cleared Sheikh Mohammed of any knowledge and concluded the illegal importations resulted from management failings – resulting in resignations last week – and the differing licensing requirements in the many countries where Sheikh Mohammed has equine interests.
The introduction to Stevens’s published report says it “gathered information from the relevant regulatory authorities.” But the VMD insisted this week that it did not participate.
“We investigated the [Moorley] case, ie the import of the illegal meds, and were made aware that Lord Stevens had been tasked by Sheikh Mohammed to carry out a review into the whole affair,” said the spokesman. “But were not asked for our input into Lord Stevens’ report.”
Stevens’s report included a statement from an unnamed vet that the Moorley drugs were not intended for use in the UK.
The VMD spokesman said: “We do not accept that the veterinary medicines were not for use in the UK. The products were illegally imported and as a result they were seized. We take the illegal import, marketing, sale and administration of veterinary medicines very seriously, and robustly pursue such cases in accordance with our Enforcement Strategy.”
A spokesman for Lord Stevens declined to comment on VMD’s claim.
VMD is the second veterinary body to have underlined concerns about the proposed means of administering the drugs.
The British Equine Veterinary Association has already suggested the likely involvement of “non-vets”. Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act, vets not holding the Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons qualification cannot practise in the UK or acquire licensed medicines, while any MRCVS found handling unlicensed medicines would face disciplinary action.
Spaniard Jaume Punti Dachs, Sheikh Mohammed’s principal endurance trainer, was based at Moorley last summer and accepted responsibility for the consignment. Last autumn Dachs said VMD’s visit was “routine” and “expected”, yet this was VMD’s sole raid on a British stable throughout 2013.
VMD declined to comment on Dachs’s statement that he replaced the entire haul with licensed equivalents at Newmarket Equine Hospital next day. VMD was also “not in a position” to divulge if prosecution is likely.
Further mystery surrounds last week’s resignation of three unnamed vets from Godolphin. A spokesman declined to outline how Godolphin’s veterinary services would be managed in Newmarket in future, or if more of the 23 international vets employed by Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai Equine Hospital would be encouraged to become an MRCVS.
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