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British racing's governing body on Thursday handed six-month bans to 15 horses owned and trained by the leading Godolphin stable in connection with a doping scandal that has rocked the sport.
The bans mean that the 11 horses that tested positive for anabolic steroids, including former 1,000 Guineas favourite Certify, and four others that were not tested but who were administered the drugs, are ineligible to compete until October 9.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said in a statement on its website that the bans were backdated to April 9 -- the day they were first tested at Godolphin's Newmarket stables in eastern England.
The suspensions for the horses are separate from a disciplinary hearing on trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni that began at the BHA headquarters in central London on Thursday afternoon.
The 37-year-old, who was charged on Wednesday with breaching rules "related to prohibited substances, duty to keep medication records, and conduct prejudicial to racing", arrived at the hearing to a crowd of photographers and television cameras but said nothing to waiting reporters.
The charges relate to samples taken from 45 horses at the Newmarket yard, 11 of which were found to contain traces of the banned anabolic steroids ethylestranol and stanozolol.
Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum reacted to what has been described as racing's biggest doping scandal in recent years by shutting the stables and ordering a full-scale internal investigation.
The sheikh, one of racing's leading figures and the ruler of Dubai, said he was "appalled and angered" by the revelations.
Al Zarooni has said the situation was a "catastrophic error" and claimed that he did not realise he was in breach of racing rules by administering the drugs.
The BHA said on Wednesday that he had told investigators that a further four horses that were not tested were also given the banned substances.