Dubai Sheikh drafts in APCO to defend image after racehorse drug scandal

The ruler of Dubai has called in APCO to deal with the media after 11 of his racehorses tested positive for banned substances in Britain.

Defence: Sheikh Mohammed with Electrocutionist (not one of the suspended horses), ridden by Frankie Dettori
Defence: Sheikh Mohammed with Electrocutionist (not one of the suspended horses), ridden by Frankie Dettori

The reputation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his Godolphin stables, which span Britain and Dubai, was shaken by one of the biggest doping scandals to hit UK sport.

The global PR agency, which has an office in Dubai, is defending the Sheikh, who has been involved in British horseracing for more than 30 years and is described as the sport’s biggest investor.

APCO has issued a statement following the disclosure by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) that the horses, trained at Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks Stables near Newmarket, had tested positive for anabolic steroids.

It is also understood to have been dealing with sports journalists to take them through the case and stress the Sheikh was not personally aware of the use of steroids at his stables.

In the statement the Sheikh said he was ‘appalled and angered to learn one of our stables in Newmarket has violated Godolphin’s ethical standards and the rules of British racing’.

The BHA subsequently banned a Godolphin trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni, for eight years and restricted 15 horses in total from racing for six months. Al Zarooni said in a statement released by Godolphin: ‘I have made a catastrophic error.’

British horseracing risks being dragged into another drugs scandal after reports that the BHA was investigating a number of positive samples at a separate yard belonging to horse trainer Gerard Butler.

It stressed the two cases were not linked and the source of the positive samples at Butler’s stables was a licensed veterinary product.

APCO declined to comment and Godolphin was unavailable for comment.

Scandal timeline

4-5 May Qipco Guineas Festival, in which Godolphin horse Dawn Approach is expected to compete.

25 April Mahmood Al Zarooni banned by BHA for eight years.

24 April Sheikh Mohammed says: ‘We will lock down the Moulton Paddocks stables with immediate effect.’

22 April Eleven samples from Moulton Paddocks test positive for steroids.

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