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Butler free to return as five-year suspension is cut short; Butler return unlikely after penalty cut short by BHA.

Byline: Graham Dench

GERARD BUTLER yesterday spoke publicly for the first time after it was revealed 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 Britain."

Butler, who began training in 1998 VVCONTINUES page 3 VVFROM front page and sent out the following year's Coral-Eclipse winner Compton Admiral among more than 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.

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 PS6,000 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 yesterday: "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."
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Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2018
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