Guy Cherel lawyer: doping case displays a gross ignorance about racing
Leading French jumps trainer Guy Cherel was released from custody on Tuesday evening having been charged by a judge in Versailles with undisclosed crimes following a police investigation into allegations of doping.
On Wednesday Cherel's legal team went on the offensive in revealing the police evidence rested on seven historic cases of horses testing positive for legal medications that are banned on raceday, the most recent of which concerned Lachlan Bridge after a race at Clairefontaine in July 2016. They further claimed none of the tests carried out during visits to his stable in Maisons-Laffitte or his Normandy stud farm had returned a positive for any banned substance.
News of Cherel's arrest by officers from the gaming and racing division first broke in Le Parisien newspaper on Monday evening, with anonymous sources "close to the investigation" claiming that quantities of doping materials had been seized.
But speaking to the racing press on Wednesday, Cherel said his "conscience was clear", while his lawyer, Maitresse Florence Gaudilliere, said that all the cases related to incidents already treated by France Galop stewards. She also said her client had observed longer than the recommended withdrawal period before his horses returned a positive test.
Gaudilliere told Jour de Galop: "All the horses from which the police took samples are negative, as are all those win and placed horses of Monsieur Cherel's routinely tested by France Galop. The thing that is very worrying for racing as a whole is the manner in which this investigation has been conducted. They have brought in vets, laboratories and pharmacists from outside racing who aren't used to treating horses. It is a global suspicion being cast on the racing world."
Gaudilliere has worked on a number of high-profile legal cases within racing and said that she hoped suitable expertise would be brought into the investigation, something she claimed had been lacking thus far.
"For me, the case displays a gross ignorance about racing," she said. "It is my belief that, as the judge proceeds with the case, it will collapse as quickly as it has been put together. But I deplore the immediate and dramatic effects that it has for my client, who is currently unable to carry on with the career that he has pursued for 35 years, all the while under the presumption that he is innocent."
Cherel received a six-month ban from France Galop – with three months suspended for five years – and a €15,000 fine in the wake of Lachlan Bridge testing positive for Ranitidine, a treatment for gastric ulcers.
That was the most recent of a series of infractions, all of which surrounded the administering of medication which Cherel has always maintained observed a time in excess of the suggested safe withdrawal period.
Cherel told the France-Sire website: "I have nothing to reproach myself for and my conscience is clear. The investigators based their search on seven cases of horses testing positive over the last ten years, the most recent being Lachlan Bridge in 2016. But in each case there was a problem with the withdrawal period for medication which is relatively benign and never in my life has there been an instance involving substances associated with serious doping."
During the Lachlan Bridge suspension a number of Cherel's horses were transferred to his long-time partner, Isabelle Pacault, a successful trainer in her own right.
In addition to that suspension and fine, Cherel paid a total of €34,500 in four separate cases dating between July 2011 to January 2016, the most serious of which followed a positive test for dexamethasone, a corticosteroid found in treatment used for a back problem and which remained in the system of Aigrette De Loire despite the observation of a 21-day withdrawal period.
Cherel's legal team declined to divulge the nature of the charges brought against him by the judge on Tuesday.
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