International Horse Doping Conspiracy Uncovered

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Source: Paul Kehrer, “Horse Racing at Arlington Park on June 21, 2009,” wikimedia.org, June 21, 2009

27 people have been indicted in separate but related conspiracies to dope racehorses with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

The horses were raced at tracks in New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The alleged scheme misled government agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Customs and Border Protection, and state agencies, as well as state horse racing regulators and people who bet on racing. At this point, investigators have found no evidence that those involved manipulated betting on the races.

The US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York called the situation a “systematic, international scheme among trainers, vets, and others to cheat using misbranded and adulterated drugs.”

Jorge Navarro is accused of doping racehorse XY Jet among others with “blood building” drugs. The PEDs can lead to heart issues or death when given before intense physical exertion such a a race. XY Jet died of a heart attack at eight years old in Jan. 2020. XY Jet was heavily doped according to the indictment, with over 50 injections in one instance. The horse won more than $3 million in 12 victories over 26 races, including the Dubai Golden Shaheen, worth $1.5 million.

Another horse, Maximum Security, was disqualified after crossing the finish line of the 2019 Kentucky Derby first for blocking the paths of two other horses. Trainer Jason Servis is accused of doping Maximum Security (along with almost all of his other horses) with the performance-enhancing drug SGF-100 on the advice of Navarro. Servis is also alleged to have conspired with veterinarian Kristian Rhein to make drug tests on Maximum Security look like false positives. Maximum Security won four of five of his high-profile races since the Kentucky Derby disqualification, including the world’s richest, the Saudi Cup, which is worth $10 million.

William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the New York Office, stated, “These substances stimulated endurance, deadened nerves, increased oxygen intake and reduced inflammation. What actually happened to these horses amounted to nothing less than abuse. They experienced cardiac issues, overexertion leading to leg fractures, increased risk of injury and in some cases death.”

Lawyers for Servis and Narvarro indicated they would plead not guilty to the charges.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Does giving PED(s) to horses before a race amount to animal abuse? Explain your answer.

2. The punishments for the various charges are 5 years or 20 years in prison. What penalties should people convicted of horse doping face? Explain your answer.

3. How does doping horses compare to athletes using performance-enhancing drugs? Explain your answer.

Sources:

Guardian Sport and Agencies, “Trainer of Maximum Security among Dozens Hit with Doping Charges,” theguardian.com, Mar. 9, 2020

Sonia Moghe and Eric Levenson, “Trainer of Champion Horse Maximum Security among 27 Indicted in Horse-Racing Doping Scheme,” cnn.com, Mar. 10, 2020

US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, “Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges 27 Defendants in Racehorse Doping Rings,” justice.gov, Mar. 9, 2020

Benjamin Weiser and Joe Drape, “More than Two Dozen Charged in Horse Racing Doping Scheme,” nytimes.com, Mar. 9, 2020

Jenna West, “Prosecutors Charge 27 People in Horse Racing Doping Scandal,” si.com, Mar. 9, 2020

Tom Winter and David K. Li, “Horse Racing Trainers and Veterinarians Charged in International Doping Scandal,” nbcnews.com, Mar. 9, 2020