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Godolphin have 11 horses banned after testing positive for steroids 22/04/2013
Greg Wood
• 1,000 Guineas hope Certify among horses affected
• Al-Zarooni faces hearing after 'dark day' for stable

British racing faces the most serious doping scandal in its history following the disclosure on Monday evening that 11 horses trained by Mahmood al-Zarooni, one of the powerful Godolphin operation's two principal trainers, have tested positive for anabolic steroids. All 11, including Certify, a leading contender for the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday week, have been banned from racing for "an extended period of time".

The news that one of the most high-profile trainers in European racing has been administering anabolic steroids to his horses first appeared in a statement on Godolphin's website, and was confirmed shortly afterwards by an official notification from the British Horseracing Authority that Zarooni will face a disciplinary hearing at a date to be confirmed.

Zarooni, who joined Godolphin in March 2010 and won the St Leger, one of Britain's five classics, in his first season, admitted in the statement on that he had made "a catastrophic error", and that "because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realise that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing."

Zarooni also expressed his "deep regret" for what had occurred, adding that he could "only apologise for the damage this will cause to Godolphin and to racing generally". Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said on Monday that it had been "a dark day for Godolphin, and we are all shocked by what has happened".

He added: "His highness Sheikh Mohammed was absolutely appalled when he was told and this is completely unacceptable to him. We will await the outcome of the BHA inquiry before taking any further internal action.

"Sheikh Mohammed has instructed me to begin an urgent review of all of our procedures and controls. That is already under way and we will take advice from the BHA in completing it."

In all, BHA investigators obtained samples from 45 horses at Zarooni's stable at Moulton Paddocks, just outside Newmarket. Seven, including Certify, tested positive for ethylestrenol, while four more, including Opinion Poll, the runner-up in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last June, were found to have tested positive for stanozolol.

Anabolic steroids are the most serious of all potentially performance-enhancing drugs that can be administered to horses, and their use is subject to a blanket ban in racing yards, whether or not a horse is due to contest a race in the near future.

Adam Brickell, the director of integrity, legal and risk for the BHA, said that a disciplinary panel will be convened to consider the case "at the first available opportunity".

He added: "Ethylestrenol and stanozolol are anabolic steroids and therefore prohibited substances under British rules of racing, at any time – either in training or racing. Mahmood al-Zarooni has been advised of the analysts' findings and has been visited by an investigating officer.

"The horses which have produced positive tests will also not be permitted to race with immediate effect and for an extended period of time. As part of the ongoing process, a decision will be made as to what period this suspension will be imposed for.

"The BHA understands the importance of this process being carried out as quickly as possible because of implications for betting markets." Zarooni faces an extended, worldwide ban from racing if he is found to be in breach of the anti-doping rules, and the near-certainty that he will lose his position with Godolphin.

Certify had been one of the favourites for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on 5 May, having completed an unbeaten juvenile campaign with victory in the Group One Fillies' Mile in October 2012 over the same course and distance as next month's classic.

She was also prominent in ante-post betting for the Oaks at Epsom on 31 May, and has been scratched from the lists by most bookmakers due to uncertainty over how long she will be banned from racing.

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