Questions of neutrality raised over Godolphin enquiry
LORD Stevens’ report, as commissioned by Sheikh Mohammed, demonstrated a “clear conflict of interests” and the “findings are nothing special”, a leading international equestrian body said
Lord Stevens, a former Metropolitan police commissioner, is also a consultant for the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, for whom the Sheikh’s second wife, Princess Haya, is president.
A leading international equestrian federation has heavily criticised a report, published on Wednesday, exonerating Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, the UK’s leading racehorse owner, of having any knowledge of three drug-related scandals involving his organisation last year, lamenting the enquiry’s “conflict of interests” after being commissioned by the Sheikh himself.
Stevens was employed by Sheikh Mohammed and his wife Princess Haya to investigate three separate incidents involving his equine operations, including the doping of Godolphin horses with anabolic steroids by Mahmood al-Zarooni and two seizures of “potentially toxic and dangerous” veterinary goods at Stansted airport and Moorley Farm, owned by the Sheikh’s Darley Stud, in Newmarket.
The enquiry, during which Stevens spoke with a number of key figures within Sheikh Mohammed’s organisation including the Godolphin racing manager, Simon Crisford, and trainer Charlie Appleby, as well as Zarooni, found that Sheikh Mohammed did not have any knowledge of the events leading to the seizure of unlicensed medicines at Moorley Farm or from a Dubai Royal Air Wing flight at Stansted.
The report also stated that Zarooni “acted alone” during his doping of thoroughbreds. However, the Swiss Equestrian Federation has questioned the neutrality of Lord Stevens’ report, citing concerns because of the former Met commissioner’s links to Princess Haya. Stevens is a consultant to the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), for whom Princess Haya is currently president.
Dr Claude Nordmann, co-ordinator for international relations and a board member at the Swiss federation, said: “I’m not at all surprised with the results. We think there is a conflict of interest to have global advisory firm Quest investigating Sheikh Mohammed’s operations and on the other end being involved in the integrity unit of the FEI.
‘’If you want to make a neutral enquiry you should not take a man who has a contract with the business of his wife. He is paid by Sheikh Mohammed. For us it’s a conflict of interest and we don’t understand why he [Stevens] accepted this mandate. The findings are nothing special—it’s astonishing that you could find so many veterinary products in a farm, not in a surgery or clinic.”
Lord Stevens said: “Throughout our investigation of the three entirely separate incidents, we have established that no evidence whatsoever exists to suggest that HH Sheikh Mohammed had any knowledge of the purchase, transportation or use of any unregulated medicines. Equally, neither did he have any knowledge of the illegal activities of Mahmood al-Zarooni.
“However, in our discussions with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, he agreed to create a task force of experts to suggest ways to make it easier for all affected stakeholders in the equestrian industry to comply with the regulations.”
The report, made public at the behest of Sheikh Mohammed, stated that a number of “management oversights” and a “sense of complacency” had led to the seizures by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and UK Border Force at Stansted last May 3 and at Moorley Farm last summer, as well as the Zarooni scandal.
One hundred bottles of Tildren, a substance that is used by vets for horses with bone problems, were seized from the Dubai jet at Stansted, with the sheer volume of the product causing concern for the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). However, the Stevens inquiry claimed “the quantities of the medicines seized... are not in themselves unusual”.
Keith Chandler, senior vice-president at BEVA, said: “We welcome the detailed investigation performed by the representatives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed. We do have concerns that these medicines may have been used and administered by non-veterinarians.”
The Stevens report stated that Dubai Royal Air Wing aircraft, owned and run by the Dubai government, has been banned from transporting veterinary medicines in the future, while the investigation has led to a number of recommendations for Sheikh Mohammed’s equine management team. As well as the establishment of a task force, Stevens suggested that an internal compliance unit should be set up, with the power to visit and examine any part of Sheikh Mohammed’s operation at any time.
Adam Brickell, the director of integrity, legal and risk at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), said: “We welcome the release of the public report compiled by Lord Stevens. We have been in contact with Lord Stevens’ team and the findings of the investigation published corroborate the conclusions of our own investigation.
“In the light of the positive samples last year the Godolphin horses based at Moulton Paddocks remain subject to enhanced monitoring for a period of time until BHA is satisfied that a reduced level of scrutiny would be appropriate.”
Princess Haya said: “On behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, I have been asked to thank Lord Stevens and his team for their work and all they have done to improve the internal operations of Sheikh Mohammed’s equestrian operations. Sheikh Mohammed intends to follow through on all of the recommendations.”