British racing's rulers have come in for stinging criticism from the respected Timeform organisation over their handling of the Godolphin steroids scandal last year.
The comments are made in the latest edition of Timeform's Racehorses annual covering the 2013 Flat racing season and will make for uncomfortable reading for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
Timeform argue that the damage caused by the Mahmood al-Zarooni case will take "years to repair" and call on the BHA to widen the scope of its drug testing and seek greater control over vets involved with racing stables. "Any sport that fails to police its doping problems with the utmost rigour pays a heavy price," they conclude.
Some of the questions posed by Timeform over the case, which resulted in the self-confessed doper Zarooni being banned for eight years, are by now familiar but definitely bear repeating.
The speed with which the BHA dispatched the former Godolphin trainer in particular left some awkward, unanswered questions state Timeform.
They include the question of how long Zarooni (who had been in charge at Moulton Paddocks since 2010) had been using anabolic steroids on the horses in his care and how was that doping programme funded. Timeform also ask whether Zarooni was responsible for the doping of the seven horses – one of them the St Leger winner Encke – who tested positive after the case was closed and highlight that no charges have ever been brought in respect of that septet.
Most intriguingly of all perhaps they ponder the question of how Zarooni managed to spend much of the period in question involved in this case in Dubai while at the same time being "solely responsible" for the doping at his Moulton Paddocks Stables in Newmarket.
These issues could perhaps have been dealt with but, as Timeform point out, "the BHA was strongly critical of 'management failings' at Godolphin but not being able to track down and interview Zarooni after the seven new cases came to light … did not reflect at all well on the BHA's own management".
The use of anti-bleeding drugs, such as lasix, which are permitted at the Breeders' Cup, also comes in for critical scrutiny in the Racehorses of 2013 tome. Timeform state: "Horsemen's groups in North America do not grasp the importance for racing's global image that international events such as the Breeders' Cup should conform to a worldwide system which bans performance-enhancing drugs."
"Perhaps," they add, "the Breeders' Cup organisers would have had more chance of realising their ambition for a drug-free showpiece if more of those responsible for European-trained runners over the past 30 years had adopted [trainer] André Fabre's approach, instead of habitually injecting drugs that are banned in their own countries, in the belief that their horses will be at a disadvantage with the home-trained runners if they don't."
Champions' Day at Ascot – Britain's own equivalent of the Breeders' Cup – and the various movements in the racing calendar to accommodate the Flat season's new finale continue to exercise the minds of the Timeform organisation.
From this year, Future Champions' Day, the meeting focusing on championship races for two-year-olds, will be held 24 hours before Champions' Day itself to create a two-day climax to the campaign.
"Only time will tell if the latest tinkering will strengthen Britain's end-of-season domestic programme," contend Timeform, who hasten to add that "it does not reflect well on the architects of the revamped autumn programme that a race like the Cornwallis Stakes will have had three different positions in the calendar and been run on two different courses in the space of five years."
As for the future champions on show in 2013, the annual, whose A-to-Z list extends to over 11,000 horses, is predictably enthusiastic about the much-lauded Australia ("one of the most exciting prospects for 2014"), Kingman ("whose [debut] performance was exceptional for a newcomer") and Royal Ascot winner War Command ("the Joe Frazier of two-year-olds") and all three are dealt with in the book's trademark extensive essays.
Source: The Guardian
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