Hughie Morrison: Trainer 'innocent' over Our Little Sister failed drug test

Trainer Hughie Morrison
Hughie Morrison could lose his training licence and faces the prospect of being banned for up to 10 years

Trainer Hughie Morrison is offering a reward of £10,000 to clear his name after one of his horses tested positive for an anabolic steroid.

Our Little Sister tested positive for nandrolone after finishing last in a race at Wolverhampton on 14 January, which had prize money of £2,500.

Morrison, who could lose his licence, said he is "totally innocent" and has no idea how the drug was administered.

"For me to do it would be professional suicide," he told BBC Sport.

The 56-year-old, who has had 780 winners in a 20-year career, was charged by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) on Thursday with breaching rules and is appealing for help from the public.

He believes there has been a malicious attempt to sabotage British racing or his training operation in East Ilsley, Berkshire, and has informed Thames Valley Police.

The force said it had been contacted by Morrison's lawyer, but said it was a matter for the BHA.

A BHA spokesman said the case would be considered by a disciplinary panel and anyone with information could contact its confidential helpline on 0800 085 2580 or visit the RaceStraight website.

Morrison says whoever injected the filly must have had a thorough knowledge of racing and the implications of a positive test.

He said the horse had been left unattended for a significant time at Southwell races on 2 January after an injury to another of the stable's runners.

"The onus is on me to prove my innocence. I wouldn't be offering such a generous reward if I didn't think there was something out there," he added.

What are the rules?

BHA rules of strict liability for prohibited substances mean he faces a ban from training of between one and 10 years if found guilty.

The BHA introduced a zero-tolerance policy on anabolic steroids after the case of Godolphin trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni.

Zarooni was banned for eight years in 2013 after admitting giving an anabolic steroid, stanozolol, to 15 horses.

Godolphin trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni was banned for eight years in 2013
Godolphin trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni was banned for eight years in 2013

Morrison has been a vocal critic in the past of people using performance-enhancing substances.

"I'm so violently against steroids. Why would I give anything which would destroy me career overnight?" said the trainer who has won six races at Royal Ascot and three Group One contests.

"I have so much to lose and nothing to gain. This was a very moderate horse which gave my young staff experience in races.

"I just want to find the truth and tell the truth. We have a few questions which remain unanswered from the BHA."

Our Little Sister raced once more, when down the field at Southwell on 26 January and has since been retired.

Morrison said his yard was raided at dawn by the BHA on 3 February, when blood samples taken from all 77 horses, including Our Little Sister, returned negative results.

'We've been through hell' - Morrison

Morrison said he had hired a leading American toxicologist in an effort to uncover what has happened.

"People have been incredibly sympathetic but we have been through hell over the past three months. It's been a pretty traumatic time," he said.

"No-one likes to be accused of something one hasn't done. It's rather debilitating when you are totally innocent."

Morrison fears for the future of his yard, which employs 25 full-time staff.

He revealed news of the positive test in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

"Our Little Sister was a horse of limited ability, in a race with hardly any prize money, and there was no unusual betting on it," said the trainer.

"Racing is my life. My reputation is everything. I might annoy a few people, but everyone knows my integrity is 100%. I would never, ever do anything to besmirch the good name of the sport," he told the newspaper.

Analysis

BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght:

I don't think Morrison would argue with the analysis that he's not everyone's cup of tea. The word "outspoken" could practically have been invented for him, as all kinds of racing participants - including racecourse officials - will testify.

However, no one disputes his abilities as a trainer. Success at the top end of the scale has come with horses such as Pastoral Pursuits and Sakhee's Secret, both of whom won the Group One July Cup.

But he's also gained a reputation for being an astute 'placer' of horses, - not sending one to, say, Ascot if a lowly handicap at a less fashionable outpost might provide a better winning opportunity.

As the Old Etonian brother of a Lord, Morrison fits racing's establishment stereotype neatly but, unlike some similar trainers, he cut his teeth in commerce, running a lighting business in Manchester.

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