JOHN HUGHES, a retired Department of Agriculture vet, has been disqualified for five years by the Turf Club after being found in possession of "commercial quantities" of a potent anabolic steroid.

Hughes had been ordered to donate €10,000 to the Kilkenny Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and pay €3,100 in costs by a judge at Carlow District Court in October last year after pleading guilty to possession of the anabolic steroid ethylestrenol under the trade name Nitrotain.

Following a hearing at the Turf Club on Saturday, Hughes was banned from racing with the referrals committee citing the vet's ownership of anabolic steroids as having "very serious ramifications for the integrity and perception of the sport".

Two packages addressed to Hughes were intercepted by customs officials at Dublin Airport in February 2012 and were found to contain 6kg of Nitrotain purchased from Australia, where the steroid is legal. The quantity was estimated to total around 1,500 doses.

Hughes refused to answer questions when interviewed in December last year and did not reveal the names of the trainers he worked for claiming he could not give the names due to client confidentiality under the veterinary code of conduct.

The referrals committee found Hughes to be in breach of rule 272 by "undermining the integrity and reputation of the sport" while his failure to engage with Turf Club investigators was a breach of rule 25.

Along with his five-year ban, Hughes was fined €2,000 and ordered to make a contribution of €2,500 towards the Turf Club's costs.

The steroid ethylestrenol has an anabolic index of 19, significantly higher than Stanozolol (3.8) which was found to have been used by disgraced trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni.

Nitrotain usually cannot be detected in a horse's urine after 48-96 hours after administration although the effect on muscle outlasts the withdrawal period.

Racing Post