‘Good Day For Those Who Try To Play By The Rules’: Horse Racing Industry Reacts To Federal Indictments

by | 03.09.2020 | 5:16pm

Trainers, horseplayers and others in the Thoroughbred racing industry took to social media or issued statements Monday  regarding the indictments released by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis are among 27 people indicted on federal charges that include mislabeling or misbranding blocking agents, masking agents, EPO agents and other products in a complex scheme to give racehorses performance-enhancing substances while avoiding detection.

“A sad day for racing but a long time coming,” trainer Graham Motion wrote on Twitter. “A good day for those who try to play by the rules, we will all be better for it.”

“The fact that we have some in our industry injecting our athletes with drugs that could kill them just for a paycheck is beyond sick,” wrote Gallery Racing Stable, owned by Jim McIngvale (a.k.a “Mattress Mack”). “These horses give their everything and in return some just give them drugs for personal [sic] glory. Let's be better as an industry.”

More reactions below…

Statement from The Jockey Club on the Investigation by the FBI and Department of Justice:
Today the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York announced the indictment of 27 individuals in connection with doping in the horse racing industry. The Jockey Club has long been an advocate for drug reform in racing and we commend the actions of the FBI, the Department of Justice, and their collaborating enforcement agencies. We acknowledge that indictments are not convictions and charges are not conclusive of criminal guilt. Nevertheless, these events make it clear that federal law enforcement officials view the conduct alleged as serious, unlawful, and warranting substantial attention.

The Jockey Club understands that this investigation and the criminal investigation and related prosecutions will be painful and controversial, but the integrity of the sport and the health of all racehorses demanded action. From this point forward, it will be critical to the future of the sport that the reforms that are so badly needed are pressed forward by all segments of the industry — by everyone truly interested in clean competition and the safety and welfare of horse and rider.

Equine doping has long been a concern in racing circles, but one that has been difficult to investigate or prosecute effectively because the sport's regulatory oversight has been diffused, and often lax, across more than 30 separate state regulatory and enforcement agencies. Most people in the sport have suspected that some level of doping occurs, but evidence has been mostly third hand and circumstantial, and real information was needed to define the problem and craft a path to a solution.

At the August 2016 meeting of The Jockey Club in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., The Jockey Club told members that it had engaged 5 Stones intelligence to analyze the then current state of investigative procedures and to make recommendations for improvement. 5 Stones is a leading private investigation company with offices around the world that played a major role in the World Anti-Doping Agency investigation that resulted in sanctions against Russia for doping in the Olympic Games.

5 Stones' investigation produced indications of significant racehorse doping and active equine doping networks within the industry. This included information supporting findings that doping is often supported by enablers composed of trainers, veterinarians, pharmacists, stable staff, and in some instances, owners.

We have pledged our total cooperation as Federal authorities continue their investigations and prosecutions.

Statement From Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA):
Today the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) and its 1,900 industry members experienced a shift in direction in its battle to rein in drugs, both legal and illegal, in horse racing for the well-being of the animal.

This morning the Justice Department's Southern District of New York, acting on a year-long Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into the abuse of drugs by trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro, indicted 27 individuals involved in a widespread scheme to break Federal laws.

For years those horsemen, regulators and racetrack owners who asked WHOA where the proof existed in its claims of rampant cheating have now had their nay-saying voices silenced.

While many outside of horse racing will decry today's news as another black mark against the sport, WHOA members look upon this revelation as a step in the right direction to root out those in the sport who would take advantage of horses for their own selfish gain, as well as cheating their fellow trainers, owners and the wagering public.

“The biggest beneficiary of the FBI investigation is undoubtedly the proposed Federal legislation, The Horseracing Integrity Act, currently making its way through Congress and strongly backed by WHOA,” said Staci Hancock of WHOA. “Nothing could more dramatically highlight what is wrong with drugs in racing and nothing but the legislation can correct these deficiencies.”

The Water Hay Oats Alliance commends The Jockey Club and its leader Stuart Janney for the role they played in jump-starting the initiative that resulted in today's indictments.

Statement from the American Association of Equine Practitioners:
“Today's indictments of five AAEP-member veterinarians are concerning and disappointing to our association and the countless equine veterinarians who provide medical care to racehorses in an ethical manner.

“The AAEP's Professional Conduct and Ethics Committee has been informed about the federal charges, and our internal review process will soon begin to ensure a fair and thorough evaluation of the events. The AAEP's authority, however, is limited only to membership status in the association.

“It is the ethical obligation of AAEP members and all veterinarians to adhere to the highest standards in order to protect the racehorse and the integrity of the sport.”

Statement from the National HBPA:
The news today of the indictment returned against racehorse trainers, veterinarians and others involved is extremely troubling. The National HBPA focus has always been, and remains, the health and safety of the horse, the jockey and of all individuals coming into contact with the horse, and we strongly oppose the behavior alleged in this indictment. We firmly believe in striving for the highest standards of horsemanship, and our industry strongly believes that anyone participating in the types of activities alleged in this indictment should be severely punished.

Horsemen and horsewomen in this industry truly love their horses and want to ensure each horse is given the highest-quality care in accordance with the rules of racing. We recognize an indictment is not the equivalent to guilt.  At the same time, however, it's essential to the administration of justice and to the health of our industry for anyone with knowledge of possible illegal activity to cooperate with law-enforcement authorities.

The National HBPA understands it is imperative that our sport is conducted fairly in hopes of upholding the integrity of racing. More importantly, however, we must show care, concern and respect to our competing racehorses and accept that there is no room in our industry for anyone who does not prioritize the health and safety of horses and riders.

Statement from Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment:
“While today's news is very disappointing, it's a necessary development and further evidence that horse racing requires a higher level of coordinated regulation across all North American jurisdictions. It's also a strong statement that the use of performance enhancing drugs will not be tolerated. Hopefully this permeates through the industry and changes the culture at all levels of horse racing. While Woodbine Entertainment was not specifically involved in this investigation, we are extremely supportive of all efforts to eradicate cheating and the use of PEDs in our sport. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this investigation. Even though the vast majority of trainers do not use PEDs, it's important that we all work together for the betterment of horse racing and the welfare of our horses.”

Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States said in an official statement:
“The reprehensible actions described in the racehorse doping scandal announced today are likely just the tip of the iceberg for this industry. In the last year, we've seen more than 40 horses die at a renowned track, a hall of fame trainer banned by multiple tracks able to simply hopscotch to another state, a Triple Crown winner's drug results covered up, and now 27 trainers, vets and drug distributors indicted – including the trainer of a horse who just won the world's richest race with a purse of 10 million dollars. These individuals, and the industry, must be held accountable. Congress needs to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act to improve the welfare of racehorses throughout the country, and bring the industry into the modern century.”

New York Racing Association statement:
“There is absolutely no place in our sport for those who would administer illegal or banned substances to racehorses under their care. The New York Racing Association is committed to preserving and protecting  the integrity of the sport and the safety of the equine and human athletes who compete at our tracks. We will continue to work closely with the New York State Gaming Commission and our industry partners across the country to advance meaningful reforms that protect the future of thoroughbred horse racing.”

Statement from the Stronach Group:
The Stronach Group, operators of Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows Training Center, complied fully with the search warrants that were executed by federal authorities this morning. The warrants issued were specific only to the barns and stalls that were occupied by the individuals charged today.

The Stronach Group is not included in the charges.

The Stronach Group is committed to achieving the highest level of horse care and safety standards in Thoroughbred racing. We are at the forefront of industry leading reforms to protect the integrity of our sport and have instituted processes and protocols that have led to nationwide medication reform and increased transparency and accountability. There is no room in our sport for anyone who does not prioritize the health and well-being of horses and riders.

As this matter is under federal investigation we will not be commenting further at this time.

Statement from Jill Byrne , VP Racing Operations, Colonial Downs.
Today's news is very disturbing and detrimental for our industry, but also hope that it is a wake up call and move towards reform at all levels in the horse racing world. There can be no tolerance for this or other actions of the sort. It is paramount that everyone work together to support all efforts to ultimately protect the safety, health and welfare of our equine and human athletes, as well as the integrity of our horse industry.

Statement from Ed Martin, president of ARCI:
Today's indictments are good news in that they demonstrate the multiple layers of enforcement and the tools available, including wiretaps, that exist to police this sport. The takeaway for everyone involved in racing is simple: don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Putting one over on the lab does not mean you won't be eventually caught.  

Statement from Bill Thomason, president and CEO of Keeneland Association:
“The administration of illegal medication and other improper substances to our equine athletes, as outlined by the indictments brought forth by federal prosecutors, is simply unacceptable. Putting profits and self-interest over the safety and integrity of our sport and its athletes has never, and will never, be tolerated by Keeneland. As the legal proceedings against the individuals identified by federal prosecutors unfold, the Thoroughbred racing community must continue to strengthen our screening processes. In the meantime, Keeneland will suspend the individuals in question from participating in training, racing or sales activities on our property. We have faith in the legal system and appreciate the work of the federal law enforcement, including the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's office. Ensuring the safety and well-being of these horses will always be our top priority.”

CHRI Calls for Immediate Passage of Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019
In reaction to explosive indictments announced this morning by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York, the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI) called on the House and the Senate to immediately pass the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019.

Earlier this morning, federal prosecutors announced four indictments related to a wide-ranging doping scheme that put the health and well-being of horses at risk, with the ultimate goal of evading testing authorities and profiting from racehorses' improved performance. The indictments charge more than two dozen individuals in the scheme, including leading trainers and veterinarians.

“We applaud federal law enforcement for vigorously pursuing these cheaters — trainers and veterinarians alike — whose dangerous practices imperil the health and safety of our equine athletes and threaten the viability of our great sport. By uncovering this 'widespread, corrupt scheme,' the FBI and the Justice Department has exposed to the world what we have been saying has plagued our industry for too long — an accepted culture of doping in racing, and the complete inability of the current anti-doping system to stop it,” said Shawn Smeallie, executive director of CHRI. “We need to pass national legislation now to replace our ineffective patchwork system with a much more uniform and independent anti-doping program. Our opponents have simply run out of arguments.”

The Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R.1754/S.1820), introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY) in the House and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) in the Senate, would create a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority, the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HADA), responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program for horse racing. HADA would be governed by a board composed of six individuals who have demonstrated expertise in a variety of horse-racing areas, six individuals from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and its chief executive officer. USADA is recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sports, and its independence from sport is critical for ensuring adequate oversight over doping in horse racing.

Statement from NTRA:       
The charges documented in today's federal indictment against 27 individuals in horse racing are 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. 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.”

Statement from Thoroughbred Safety Coalition: There is no place in our sport for the activities described in the indictments filed by the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office. Safety and integrity will always come first for the members of the Coalition, which is why restricting medication and improving testing is one of the main pillars in our reform platform.

The administration of illegal substances to racehorses cannot be tolerated by the Thoroughbred racing community. While we will not speculate and appreciate that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, we vigorously support a strong and unambiguous punishment for any wrongdoing. Additionally, we must continue to take the appropriate steps to ensure that racing fans and participants can trust in the integrity of our competition. Our equine athletes and fans deserve better.


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