LONDON — The horseracing world has been shaken to its fetlocks by revelations of a doping scandal at the top prize-winning Godolphin stable, owned by Dubai’s ruling Maktoum family.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler, was described as “absolutely appalled” by the announcement on Monday that 11 Godolphin thoroughbreds trained at Newmarket, the home of British horseracing, had tested positive for banned steroids.
In what one racing commentator described as “one of the biggest doping scandals of modern times,” Mahmoud Al Zarooni, one of Godolphin’s top trainers, admitted responsibility for administering the drugs in what he said was a “catastrophic error.”
Simon Crisford, Godolphin racing manager, said, “This is a dark day for Godolphin. We are all shocked by what has happened.”
According to Cornelius Lysaght, the BBC’s racing correspondent, Sheikh Mohammed’s legendary hands-on approach has been responsible for turning Godolphin into one of the few top players in racing, and the Maktoum family has helped transform Dubai into a world center for sport and leisure.
“Yet, apparently right under their noses, perhaps racing’s greatest ever drugs scandal has unfolded,” Mr. Lysaght wrote.
Godolphin was set up in 1992 to take advantage of the climate in Dubai, where the Maktoum horses spend the winter at a state-of-the-art training center in preparation for the most prestigious races around the world.
The ruling family went on to establish the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race. This year Godolphin was the leading owner at the event for the sixth straight year.
Dubai is currently involved in a project to boost China’s nascent racing industry. Meydan Group, a government-owned developer that runs the Dubai track, said it plans to host an international meeting there this year.
As a Godolphin trainer since 2010, Mr. Zarooni has added to its string of track victories, including a win at last year’s Dubai event with Monterosso, owned by Sheikh Hamdan, crown prince of the Arabian Gulf emirate.
The British Horseracing Authority announced on Monday it would hold a disciplinary inquiry after traces of two banned anabolic steroids were found in samples taken from 11 horses trained by Mr. Zarooni. They were among 45 animals tested at the Moulton Paddocks stables in Newmarket.
They include the American-bred Certify, a three-year-old filly that has now been pulled from the One Thousand Guineas, next week’s British classic.
The Daily Mail said the ban on the horses that tested positive would be “hugely embarrassing” for Sheikh Mohammed.
Mr. Zarooni, who now faces a training ban, said he deeply regretted what had happened. “Because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realize that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing,” he said, according to the Godolphin Web site.