Britain's anabolic steroid scandal continued to spread April 29 when Newmarket trainer Gerard Butler admitted to using steroids on his own horses, according to a report by British newspaper The Independent.
Butler has said he didn't think the medication was a problem because he included the injections, given for injured joints, in his medical records that had been reviewed by the British Horseracing Authority.
"It did not cross my mind that there could be any problem with this medication," Butler also told The Independent. "And, judging from the fact that the BHA said nothing about it when they saw my medical book, it does not seem to have crossed their minds, either."
The medication given is known as Sungate and contains the anabolic steroid stanozolol. While Butler admits he made "a terrible mistake," he also said the he was assured by his vets that the medication was widely prescribed in Newmarket and has been given to more than 100 horses stabled there.
Butler said he treated a gelding named Little Black Book in June. The Irish-bred son of Shamardal, owned by A.D. Spence, ran Aug. 4 and then won a one-mile handicap a couple of weeks later at Kempton.
"So they would have known he was clearly in training at the time," Butler told The Independent. "In the medical book, I signed that I had authorized use of the drug, and my vet had countersigned for its administration. Sungate had for some time been widely used in their practice, with very beneficial results for joint injuries."
The BHA did notify Butler of a positive test result after it conducted an unannounced sampling taken at his stable Feb. 20. He said he immediately told the BHA of four other fillies that received the same treatment.
"I am not trying to defend myself, just to explain what happened," Butler told the newspaper. "And I must emphasize that I was advised in good faith by my vets."
While the BHA's general policy is not to comment publicly regarding ongoing investigations or speculation surrounding potential investigations, the organization did post a statement on its website.
"In light of reports and speculation today, and because of recent events regarding horses formerly trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, it is felt necessary to confirm that a separate investigation is being held into a number of positive samples obtained from horses at Gerard Butler's yard, following a testing in training visit on Feb. 20," statement said.
"While conscious of the need not to prejudice the outcome of the current enquiry, the investigation has established that the source of the positive samples was a veterinary product, licensed in the EU and legally imported for use by a veterinary practice, the initial administration of which was recommended by a vet.
"This investigation remains ongoing and a number other parties have been and will be interviewed, including representatives of the veterinary practice in question. One of the objectives of this investigation is to clarify the extent to which this product has been distributed and administered to horses in training.
"Immediately following the results of the testing in training, the BHA, in conjunction with the National Trainers Federation, notified trainers that the product in question contains an anabolic steroid and should not be used on any horse in training," the statement concluded.