You have probably heard of athletes using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in baseball and football, but have you ever heard of the use of PEDs in horse racing?
On March 9, 2020, 27 horse racing employees (trainers, veterinarians, etc.) were charged with manufacturing, distributing, and receiving misbranded PEDs, which they then gave to racehorses. These PEDs were undetectable by the anti-PED tests that were given to the racehorses. These misbranded PEDs worked by preventing the horses from feeling pain. This caused the racehorses to overexert themselves while training and racing – which could lead to injury, or in more serious cases, the death of the horses.
The investigation into the misbranded PEDs started in January 2017 and involved racetracks in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and the United Arab Emirates. The indictment claimed that “participants sought to improve race performance and obtain prize money from racetracks.” The trainers involved in this PED scandal earned a share of the racehorses’ winnings and also received higher trainer fees because of their horses’ racing records.
One of the indicted trainers, Jorge Navarro, has had his fair share of trouble within the horse racing industry. In 2017, Navarro was fined $10,000 after a video came out where he was suggesting the use of illegal drugs on horses. His horses were also banned from racetracks in Delaware, Maryland, and Indiana. Also in 2017, two of his horses tested positive for cocaine. Navarro claims that the blood samples for the cocaine testing were contaminated, but that was never proven true. Navarro is also accused of training and doping racehorse XY Jet, who won the 2019 Golden Shaheen race in Dubai.
Another indicted trainer, Nick Surick, was recorded on a telephone call where he admitted that he disposed of bodies of horses that died under Navarro’s care. Surick allegedly said, “You know how many f—– horses [Navarro] f—— killed and broke down that I made disappear?” Surick was charged with giving PEDs to horses that reduced inflammation in their joints to improve race performance.
Perhaps the most well-known indicted trainer, Jason Servis, is charged with doping “virtually all horses under his control.” Specifically, racehorse Maximum Security, who finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was then disqualified for interference.
Horse racing is a $100 billion industry with a following of millions of fans. While this indictment is a bad for the industry, it is a good day for the trainers that play by the rules. These racehorses are athletes that deserved to be treated as such.
Cover Image: Author’s personal photograph