Butler’s five years is hopefully life, but not as we know it
6 December 2013
Sifting through the wreckage of Gerard Butler’s wrongdoings, the most heinous crime of all as a horseman was his scant regard for animal welfare.
There was the cheating and deceit. There were the lies, and there was the fact that his stable staff had just two days to find a new job after he was disqualified from racing for five years on Wednesday.
Even administering horses with Stanozolol has a precedent in the Mahmood Al Zarooni doping scandal.
Butler, however, not only injected four horses in his care with anabolic steroids manufactured solely for humans, but he did so with a regularity that has yet to be tested by animal science.
Butler bought 50 phials of steroids and he kept his secret steroid administration largely to himself. By not telling anybody else, it allowed vets to prescribe medication to his horses without the knowledge they were already drugged up to their eyeballs.
As highlighted by the weighty British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel result findings it was more luck than judgement that something serious did not happen to Azrag, Zain Eagle, Zain Spirit, or Prince Alzain, the four horses who received the systematic doping of Stanozolol.
In addition to this, Butler's shambolic record keeping was such that there is no medication record to suggest that the quartet ever received steroids. Butler’s failure to record prescribed medication to horses under his care - 77 instances in all - means that Egerton House Stables was always within a step of a horse receiving a cocktail of drugs, which may have had fatal consequences.
Had that occurred Butler would be facing criminal charges, which, given that his actions have breached Section 19 of the 1966 Veterinary Surgeons Act which states it is a criminal offence for unqualified persons to practice veterinary surgery, could well still take place.
Butler’s reasoning that he could inject horses without the presence of a veterinary practitioner, is laughable. I do not doubt that under duress, and in an emergency, Butler might be able to inject a racehorse in the fetlock joint with a lifesaving formula.
He had seen it done many times before, but I've watched football many times before, but that does not mean I can replicate what Wayne Rooney does for Manchester United with any consistency.
Butler stated that he did not require a vet because he believed that he was saving money by doing it himself.
And it is easy to see why Butler’s penny-pinching is a crucial ingredient in this pathetic tale. In 2010 the 47-year-old Irishman accumulated a total of £81,544 in prize-money in Britain. It was a vertiginous cliff drop from £314,627 the previous season, and £838,763 ten years ago.
In 2012 he fared slightly better with £89,303, and yet, lo and behold, on the day he was thrown out of our sport he was perched on an 18 per cent strike-rate for 2013 – the best of his career, and was on £112,313 for the year.
Butler repeatedly lied to the British Horseracing Authority during his hearing. He appeared to coerce his junior staff into helping him perform his sordid tasks. He failed to provide adequate medical care for his horses, four of whom he placed in mortal danger.
He was beguiled by the possibility of success along the lines of Ben Johnson, the disgraced sprinter who was held up as a beacon of performance by the online shop where he purchased the Rexogin that is ten times as strong as Sungate.
Butler has got his comeuppance, and it is a wonder that five years was considered enough. It is a life ban hopefully, but not as we know it. If in 2018 Butler returns to racing as a trainer, it will be a travesty.