US horse racing has been hit by one of its biggest ever scandals after 27 people, including the trainer of one of the world’s best racehorses, were arrested for allegedly drugging thoroughbreds.
The multi-billion dollar US racing industry has long been dogged by accusations of doping to improve performance and distorting betting odds.
Among the trainers, vets and drugs distributors arrested is Jason Servis, trainer of Maximum Security, who last month won the $20m Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race. He also appeared to have won the 2019 Kentucky Derby, before being disqualified for interference.
Servis is accused of doping Maximum Security and “virtually all of the racehorses under his control” according to the four indictments. Servis entered horses in some 1,082 races between 2018 and last month, while another arrested trainer, Jorge Navarro, entered horses in 1,480 races over that time.
Prosecutors claim horses were secretly given adulterated performance enhancing drugs including blood builders, pain shots, bronchodilators and “red acid” to boost performance.
William Sweeney Jr, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office said: “These substances stimulated endurance, deadened nerves, increased oxygen intake, and reduced inflammation.
“What actually happened to the horses amounted to nothing less than abuse.They experienced cardiac issues, over-exertion leading to leg fractures, increased risk of injury, and in some cases death.
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“Conversely, the human beings involved in this scheme continued to line their purses as they manipulated this multi-billion dollar horse racing industry across the globe.
“People are rightfully disturbed by the mistreatment of animals who have absolutely no means of defence.”
The 27 defendants are accused of involvement in one or more drug alteration and misbranding conspiracies to deceive regulators, racing officials and the betting public, with each charge carrying a maximum five-year prison term.
Two defendants also face smuggling or obstruction charges, each with a maximum 20-year prison term.