Trainer Howard Johnson is unlikely to work in horse racing again after a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) disciplinary panel banned him for four years. Johnson breached the sport’s welfare rules in two different ways. The first charge, which gave him three years of the ban, concerns his choice to run Striking Article after it had a denerving operation in one limb. It meant that the horse had impaired sensation in that limb for the eight races that it ran.
Secondly Johnson, who turned 58 yesterday, was accused of administering anabolic steroids to other horses in his stable for which he received a one year ban.
In reaction to the ban, Paul Struthers, Head of Communications for the BHA, said: “The Authority is satisfied that the Disciplinary Panel has imposed a significant and appropriate sanction for what were two different but very serious offences. A four year disqualification means that Howard Johnson is unable to work in or have any involvement with racing, including a prohibition on entering licensed premises such as training yards or racecourses, not just in Britain but the rest of the world.
“The Panel stated in its reasons that Mr Johnson had shown a ‘reckless disregard’ for the Rules, that his behaviour ‘fell seriously short of the standard to be expected of a licensed trainer’ and that ‘any lesser penalty would undermine the confidence stakeholders in racing are entitled to hold that, reckless disregard of equine welfare, will not be tolerated.’
“This decision, and the action of the Authority in investigating this case and bringing charges, demonstrates once more that British Racing will take decisive and firm action when confronted with issues relating to welfare or integrity.”
Johnson does have the option to appeal. If he doesn’t the ban will start next Friday and almost certainly spell the end to his 25 year career.