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|Trainer Howard Johnson banned from racing for four years
revoked after British Horseracing Authority inquiry Handler ran horse
following denerving operation
Howard Johnson has been banned from racing for four years after being
found in breach of the sport's welfare rules. Three years of the ban were
imposed in respect of his having raced a horse eight times after it had
undergone a denerving operation that left it with impaired sensation in a lower
limb, while the fourth year will be his punishment for administering steroids
to other horses.
Johnson was not immediately available for comment but
has the option to appeal. His ban will not start until next Friday.
news, issued by the British Horseracing Authority, comes one day after
Johnson's 58th birthday and may very well prove the end to his career, 25 years
after he first got a licence to train. Even if he wished to resume training
after the ban, he would have to pass a "fit and proper person" test, which
would be no formality in light of this verdict.
The BHA's disciplinary
panel said Johnson had shown a "cavalier indifference" to the rules of racing.
Johnson admitted instructing a vet to perform a neurectomy operation on
Striking Article but denied knowing that horses are not allowed to be raced
after such a procedure.
"Johnson has shown a reckless disregard for the
rules so as to jeopardise the future welfare of a gelding in training and the
safety of those jockeys and stable staff who were engaged to ride it," the
panel concluded. A three-year ban would "reflect the need to remove Johnson's
right to train horses for a period of time which is more than a mere suspension
of his business".
Johnson was also found to have ordered the
administration of nandrolone to two horses, Whisky Magic and Montoya's Son,
while they were in training. A third charge, relating to Mintaka Pass, was not
found proven as the panel were not persuaded he had been in training when the
drug was administered. Johnson argued that the other two horses had not been in
training at the relevant time but was not believed.
Johnson's career has been buoyed and sustained in
recent years by the patronage of Graham Wylie, owner of Inglis Drever and many
other horses, all of which were trained at Johnson's yard near Durham. Last
week Wylie sent six of his better horses to the Somerset yard of Paul Nicholls,
the champion jumps trainer. He has been quoted as saying he would not keep any
horses in training in the north if Johnson were banned for more than six
months, but would instead disperse his string, some horses being sold and
others sent to yards in the south and in Ireland.
The panel said it had
reached its verdict while taking account of the likelihood "that any
significant period of disqualification may lead to the break-up of Johnson's
yard and the immediate redundancy of his stable staff".
The news of
Johnson's ban was welcomed by the charity World Horse Welfare, whose chief
executive, Roly Owers, said it was "proportionate to the seriousness of his
"When we use horses in sport, that places a significant burden
of responsibility on our shoulders for their welfare, and Howard Johnson simply
did not live up to that responsibility," Owers added. "He showed a callous
disregard for the wellbeing of the horse when he made the decision not
once but eight times to run Striking Article without any feeling in one
of his forefeet. This was a reprehensible act that clearly crossed the line
between the acceptable and unacceptable use of horses in sport.
also dismayed that a trainer of Johnson's experience and stature is pleading
ignorance of the rules. Ignorance is no excuse for not knowing the rules but
more importantly it's no excuse for cruelty. Looked at another way, we just
need to apply a little simple common sense: how could anyone think it was
acceptable to race a horse that was in so much pain it needed a neurectomy in
the first place?
"This case should send out a clear message to everyone
involved in racing that the welfare of the horse has to come first, not the
need to win at any cost."
|Late News In
|Howard Johnson has
said he has retired from the sport. He has a stable near Crook, County Durham.
This afternoon Johnson said: I am retiring from racing for good now and I
wont be appealing this decision. I am sick with the way I have been
treated - its a bloody joke. I have been banned for four years. I am 58
now and theres no way I am going to come back when I am 62."