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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Trainer Gerard Butler opens up as his five-year ban is effectively ended

Gerard Butler: no longer a disqualified person after his five-year ban was cut back to four
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Gerard Butler has spoken publicly for the first time after it was revealed on Thursday his five-year disqualification imposed in 2013 for administering banned steroids has been reduced to four, admitting he harbours thoughts of training again but that returning to Britain is highly unlikely. 

The news follows an arbitration process with the BHA prompted by the acceptance that the presence on the original disciplinary panel of solicitor Matthew Lohn created an appearance of bias.

Butler, whose successful training career in Newmarket was brought to an abrupt halt by the ban, has relocated with his family to Ocala in Florida, where he works on a farm owned by Todd Pletcher's father JJ. 

Now no longer a disqualified person, he said: "I think about training an awful lot and I've kept in touch with a lot of my former clients and staff, but I have to let my head rule my heart.

"You should never say never, but it's very, very unlikely I would ever return to training in England."

Butler, who began training in 1998 and sent out the following year's Coral-Eclipse winner Compton Admiral among well over 400 winners, was originally banned until December 3, 2018 after admitting administering steroids in a series of actions the BHA disciplinary panel described as "truly appalling behaviour from a licensed trainer".

At the end of a case that centred on the use of the equine treatment Sungate but at which Butler also confessed to purchasing and administering Rexogin, an unlicensed product ten times the strength and meant for humans, the panel concluded his actions amounted to "an appalling breach of his duty". He described the judgement and its consequences as "a devastating, humiliating experience".

Butler's is one of seven cases which have been reviewed since fellow trainer Jim Best appealed against a four-year ban for ordering jockey Paul John to stop two horses from running on their merits, it having emerged Lohn had been engaged by the BHA to advise on issues separate to his disciplinary work, an undisclosed relationship which plunged the sport's regulators into disarray.

Best had his disqualification quashed and subsequently served a six-month ban following a rehearing of the case.

Jim Best: appeal to his case had a knock-on effect

The BHA has since agreed not to enforce the remaining period of disqualification and exclusion handed to owner Anthony Knott and a friend who won £6,000 on a lay bet on one of his horses, and also to remove the decision from both individuals' disciplinary record.

In two other cases the parties involved confirmed they do not wish to take the matter further and the files are now closed. In another, the BHA has closed the file on the basis that all parties have either not responded or have confirmed they do not wish to take the matter further.

BHA media manager Robin Mounsey said: "The process involving Gerard Butler has concluded. He and other individuals from separate cases who were potentially affected by the Matthew Lohn situation were offered arbitration through an independent panel provided by Sports Resolutions.

"The arbitration process in these cases is considering penalties only, not the initial finding of breaches of the rules of racing. The independent arbitration panel in the Gerard Butler case determined that his five-year period of disqualification should be reduced to four years, which means that his period of disqualification ended on December 4, 2017."

Gerard Butler on the impact of his disqualification – for which he takes full responsibility – on his life, career and family

Now it's over I can't believe the effect it had on me. It's great to have it finished with – a huge burden off my shoulders.

It's something I lived with for four years and every time I blinked I thought of it. I did a very stupid thing and it's changed all of our lives. I can't rectify what I did – I wish I could – but I've paid my dues now.

I stayed in Newmarket for six months and all I did every morning was walk the dog. I couldn't go left, couldn't go right, and couldn't go straight on. Every avenue was closed off, but I caused it all and I can't blame anybody else.

I know I did a lot of harm and upset a lot of people, but the people I hurt most are my wife Susan and three boys, as their lives imploded upon them too. I'll forever be sorry for what I did, but I'm not a bad person and didn't murder anyone.

We all paid a huge price, but some good came of it as Todd Pletcher and his father JJ threw me a lifeline and we've all rebuilt our lives and reinvented ourselves in Florida.

Todd and I worked together with Wayne Lukas. When Todd had runners at Royal Ascot they stayed with me, and when I ran Pachattack over here he stayed with Todd. I kept in contact and when a job showed up he asked me over to try it out.

Todd Pletcher: his outfit has offered Gerard Butler a way back in recent times

I'm working with mares and yearlings on a farm owned by JJ at Ocala and give it everything I can. I'm hugely indebted to them both.

I think about training an awful lot, and I've kept in touch with a lot of my former clients and staff, but I have to let my head rule my heart.

I'm very immersed in what I'm doing in Florida for Todd and JJ Pletcher. We have a huge number of very nice horses, and it's pretty gratifying being on the tailstrings of what Todd achieves.

You should never say never, but it's very, very unlikely I would ever return to training in England.

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I think about training an awful lot, but I have to let my head rule my heart. It's very, very unlikely I would ever return to training in England

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