Incredibly, Gerard Butler is appealing his 5 year ban from racing. What chutzpah! writes Vernon Grant.
Butler said he had made “a big mistake and am paying a big price.”
The British Horseracing Authority says no date has been set for the appeal hearing.
Below is my article on the case from earlier this week.
Gerard Butler has been banned from training for 5 years after admitting to using stanozolol on 9 horses. He injected the anabolic steroid into four of the horses himself, so breaking not just the laws of racing, but also the law of the land.
What has annoyed many in the sport was how Butler tried to mislead us all by making out that he had only used Sungate, a drug licensed for use in horses, and one that has been used by other trainers. Using Sungate on horses that are in training is bad enough.
But the full truth is that he searched the internet and found a website aimed at human bodybuilders. It offered “easy payment” and to send steroids in “discreet packaging”. It led Butler to a drug called Rexogin, a favourite of people who like to build up their muscles. But Rexogin is not licensed for use on horses, and it is ten times more concentrated than Sungate.
The disciplinary panel heard that Butler believed he would be able to perform an intra-articular injection because he had been “present at hundreds of such injections.”
But, the panel said, Butler soon discovered that it was not as easy as it looked. “He accepted that he was not used to dealing with the glass vials of drugs and found them difficult to open and broke some vials and spilt Rexogin from others that he used.”
Their summary stated that Butler had undertaken “an appalling breach of his duty to look after the interests of the horses in his care and amounted to conduct that was seriously prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of the sport”.
Though he’s highly unlikely to ever again train a racehorse in the UK, Butler has got off lightly and his actions have infuriated many in the sport.
Jim McGrath who, in addition to working for Channel 4 Racing owns several horses himself, says: “Gerard Butler was brazen, he showed no regard for the laws, he knew was he was doing, his actions were premeditated. He got 5 years. Earlier this year Mahmood Al Zarooni got 8 years. The laws aren’t tough enough.”
McGrath also revealed: “There is clearly a lot more going off behind the scenes than we know. There are apparently 9 other trainers involved in the Sungate affair, but the British Horseracing Authority won’t name them.
“As an owner what I want to know is this. If a horse is in training and someone says ‘I’m just going to send it down the road for 6 weeks, it will do it good’; I want that horse tested before it goes and again when it comes back.
“The BHA prides itself on saying we have world leading regulation but it appears people are willing to take chances now. We’re kidding ourselves. ”
Graham Cunningham of the Racing Post and C4 has been very critical of the punishments handed out by the BHA.
Graham said: “Gerard Butler trawled the internet to find the steroid of choice of Ben Johnson. Then he committed the cardinal sin of racing by injecting the horses himself, with no vets close by and, in so doing, broke the criminal law. He was using a substance ten times stronger than Sungate. He asks us to believe it was naivety on his part. I think we’d all have to be very naive to believe Gerard Butler was being naive.”
As Graham Cunningham, myself and others said when the Al Zarooni story broke; that scandal was dealt with hastily. The BHA hoped that by dealing swiftly with Al Zarooni, people would believe he was one bad apple. That he was the only trainer breaking the rules of racing. That was always a nonsense.
Those close to racing are whispering behind their hands as to who those other nine trainers might be. Clive Brittain is one. He has owned up to using Sungate but says the vets used it only on horses with injuries and horses that were not in training at the time.
The British Horseracing Authority would much rather this entire scandal was swept under the carpet. A bit like horse shit!
But the integrity of racing in the UK is at stake. Those who own horses, the honest trainers and us punters want the other guilty parties named, shamed and punished.
And, where the offences demand it, punished much harsher than the disgraced Gerard Butler.
Sadly, right now at least, that seems very unlikely to happen.
Those who run racing will do what they do best. They will close ranks and try to keep the true extent of this problem a secret.
But, as cyclist Lance Armstrong discovered, more and more these days the truth will out.
Especially when it comes to the use of drugs in sport.