Horse-Racing Doping Scheme Leads to 27 Indictments

Federal prosecutors announced on Monday that 27 people have been indicted on charges of giving racehorses performance-enhancing substances. This large scheme reportedly provided trainers with the opportunity to secure victories in races around the world, including the recent inaugural Saudi Cup.

According to CNN, one of the defendants is Jason Servis. Prosecutors say that he "doped virtually all horses under his control." This includes Maximum Security, the horse that won the Saudi Cup and a $10 million purse. Maximum Security crossed the finish line first during last year's Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for interference.

Another trainer facing accusations is Jorge Navarro, the trainer of XY Jet, the racehorse that died from an apparent heart attack in January 2020. XY Jet won the 2019 Golden Shaheen race in Dubai, as well as the $1.5 million prize.

"These defendants engaged in this conduct, not for the love of the sport, and certainly not out of concern for the horses, but for money," US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said about the indictments. "And it was the racehorses that paid the price for the defendants' greed."

According to William Sweeney Jr., the assistant director in charge of the FBI 's New York office, trainers gave the horses the types of drugs that would increase their red blood cell count, increase stamina and endurance, relieve pain, and reduce joint inflammation. This was reportedly done to increase their "performance beyond their natural levels."

The defendants – which include veterinarians, trainers, and drug distributors – are accused of disguising the banned drugs with misleading labels. They are being accused of having various roles in a scheme to manufacture, distribute, and administer the performance-enhancing drugs to racehorses.

"What actually happened to the horses amounted to nothing less than abuse," Sweeney said. "They experienced cardiac issues, overexertion leading to leg fractures, increased risk of injury and, in some cases, death."

Berman revealed in a news conference that one trainer is being accused of working with someone else to quietly dispose of the bodies of dead horses instead of reporting the deaths to the proper authorities. Prosecutors did not disclose the number of horses that had died as part of this alleged scheme, but they did reveal that the FBI's investigation began two years ago while investigating another matter.

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All of the defendants have been indicted for the misbranding conspiracy. One person was indicted on two counts of obstruction while another was indicted on one count of smuggling.

(Photo Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)