Horse Racing Rocked by 27 FBI Indictments for Illegal Medications

Posted By Kimberly French on March 9, 2020

On Monday (March 9) federal prosecutors revealed 27 indictments charging 27 people in various capacities with the industry for administering, shipping, packaging and supplying illegal medications to racehorses.

Implemented by the Southern District of New York, the indictments claim those charges were involved in an extensive plan to give horses these medications, then hide their use. According to the indictments the drugs were supplied through compounding pharmacies and veterinarians.

The drug specifically outlined in the indictments is a substance which resembles Epogen, or erythropoietin, which was administered by Standardbred trainer, Nick Surick, to his harness horses.

The indictment also claimed to have discovered illegal bronchodilators, masking agents and mislabeled medications. Thoroughbred trainers, Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro, were also indicted for supplying their horses with illegal medications.

“These customized drugs were designed to be undetectable to normal testing protocols,” said Goeffrey Berman, the U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, at a press conference that morning. He continued by calling the substances “as illegal and dangerous to horses.”

According to law enforcement officials Navarro and Servis were taken into custody early Monday morning.

After social media posts showed federal agents surrounding each trainer’s barn at Palm Meadows in Florida, the racing world braced for what the indictments would yield and what impact they will have on the future of the sport.

Both Navarro and Servis have enjoyed great success in recent years and rumors they used illegal substances on their horses had long circulated in the racing community. The indictments arrive at a crucial juncture in horse racing after a year where the Kentucky Derby winner was disqualified, a Breeders’ Cup Classic contender broke down in the race and Santa Anita Park has had more than 40 horse deaths since last December.

According to the indictment, Servis gave SGF-1000 to stable star Maximum Security prior to the Pegasus Stakes on June 16, at Monmouth Park. On June 5, New Jersey regulators drew an out-of-competition testing sample from Maximum Security, but the substance was never identified in the test. It is available online as a bodybuilding supplement to promote recovery during training.

Servis was also identified as the one directing an unnamed veterinarian to alter Maximum Security’s veterinary records to claim the horse had ‘Dex’ rather than he was really injected with. Dex is short for dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that is monitored and reduces inflammation.

On Feb. 29, Maximum Security won the first edition of the $20 million Saudi Cup over the filly Midnight Bisou. He also won the Haskell Invitational, Bold Ruler Handicap and Cigar Mile. Maximum Security is the horse that won the 2019 Run for the Roses but was disqualified and placed 17th for interference.

The indictment states the illegal medications Servis used were provided by Kristian Rhein, a veterinarian at Belmont Park and Alexander Chan. These two individuals, “engaged in efforts to secretly distribute and administer adulterated and misbranded [performance-enhancing drugs] and to counsel racehorse trainers and/or owners on the use of such substances.”

Navarro’s case chronicles the administration of injections to X Y Jet on several occasions in 2019. These instances are before the horse competed in and won two races he was entered in: allowance race on Feb. 13 at Gulfstream Park and again in Dubai for the Golden Shaheen Stakes.

The indictment incorporates phone calls and texts to and from Navarro to a number of other people in the indictment, most notably Servis.

The indictment states Servis and Navarro obtained SGG-1000 from Medivet Equine in Kentucky and claims the company’s co-founder, Mike Kegley, of colluding with conditioners and medical professionals to incorrectly label the substance for shipments across state lines. In a phone call procured through federal wire taps Servis relays to Navarro he has been administering the substance, “on everything almost.” Navarro responded with, “Jay, we’ll sit down and talk this [expletive]. I don’t want to talk this [expletive] shit on the phone.”

This is a developing story and details will be added as they become available. 

 

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Kimberly French

Kimberly French is an award winning freelance journalist specializing in horse racing and horse health living in Louisville, KY. Her work has appeared in more than 25 national and international publications. She is currently the editor of Hoof Beats magazine, the official publication of the U.S. Trotting Association and the special assistant to the president for the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

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