MORE than two dozen people, including the trainer of champion Maximum Security, were charged in what authorities described Monday as a widespread international scheme to drug horses to make them race faster.
Trainer Jason Servis, whose stable includes the three-year-old champion, was charged with administering performance-enhancing drugs to that horse and others. Maximum Security crossed the finish line first at the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference and has since won four of his five high-profile races.
The charges against trainers, veterinarians and others were detailed in four indictments unveiled Monday in Manhattan federal court. Charges brought against the 27 people include drug adulteration and misbranding conspiracy.
Performance-enhancing drugs “were given to racehorses in an effort to increase their performance beyond their natural abilities,” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI New York Office, said at a news conference.
“What actually happened to the 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. Conversely, the human being involved in the scheme continued to line their purses as they manipulated this multibillion-dollar horse racing industry across the globe.”
Authorities say the drugs can cause horses to overexert themselves, leading to heart issues or death. According to the indictments, other drugs used to deaden a horse’s sensitivity to pain to improve the horse’s performance could also lead to leg fractures.
Authorities said participants in the fraud—affecting races in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and the United Arab Emirates—misled federal and state regulators, US Customs and Border Protection agents, various state horse racing regulators and the betting public.
National Thoroughbred Racing Association President and CEO Alex Waldrop called the charges “abhorrent.”
“There is no place in our sport for individuals who treat horses with disregard for their well-being or who undermine the integrity of our competition for personal gain,” Waldrop said. “We support the effort to bring these charges to light and are hopeful that their swift adjudication will help assure other horse racing participants and the public at large that our sport will not condone or tolerate the behavior alleged in the indictments.”
Federal authorities searched barns in Florida and a manufacturing facility in Kentucky. The Stronach Group, which operates Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, said it complied with the search warrants specific only to the barns and stalls of those charged.
“The Stronach Group is committed to achieving the highest level of horse care and safety standards in thoroughbred racing,” the company said in a statement. “There is no room in our sport for anyone who does not prioritize the health and well-being of horses and riders.” AP
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