By Jon Lees
USA: One-time leading trainer Jorge Navarro is facing up to five years in jail after admitting doping his horses as he changed his plea to guilty to his involvement in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud and mislead.
As part of the plea deal disclosed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss, Navarro has agreed to pay restitution of $25,860,514 which reflected winnings obtained through his fraudulent doping scheme.
He will be sentenced on December 17 with vet Kristian Rhein, another of the 20-plus defendants who have been charged in a case which also includes Maximum Security trainer Jason Servis, set to learn his fate on December 2. Servis has denied the allegations against him.
The charges arose from an FBI investigation into the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs involving a group of trainers, vets and drug distributors at tracks across the USA as well as in the UAE.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that Navarro, who trained more than 1,200 winners with earnings of nearly $35 million, “operated his doping scheme covertly, importing misbranded ‘clenbuterol’ that he both used and distributed to others, avoiding explicit discussion of PEDs during telephone calls, and working with others to coordinate the administration of PEDs at times that racing officials would not detect such cheating.”
One of the horses he doped was XY Jet, winner of the 2019 Golden Shaheen in Dubai. Among his preferred PEDs were various ‘blood building’ drugs, which, when administered before intense physical exertion, can lead to cardiac issues or death. XY Jet died of an apparent heart attack in 2020.
Maximum Security, the disqualified 2019 Kentucky Derby winner who won the first running of the $20 million Saudi Cup in 2020, was said to be one of the horses Rhein had assisted in doping.
According to the DoJ the horse underwent a dope test shortly before a Listed race at Monmouth Park in which he finished second.
He had been administered a shot of the substance SGF-1000 after which Rhein was recorded in an intercepted phone call saying Maximum Security would not test positive for the presence of the drug: “[t]hey don’t even have a test for it [SGF-1000] . . . There’s no test for it in America.”
Strauss said: “Kristian Rhein and Jorge Navarro represent the supply side and the customer side of the market in performance enhancing substances that have corrupted much of the horse racing industry.
“As he admitted today, Navarro, a licensed trainer and the purported ‘winner’ of major races across the world, was in fact a reckless fraudster whose veneer of success relied on the systematic abuse of the animals under his control.
“Rhein previously admitted that he flouted his oath as a veterinarian to protect the animals under his care, choosing instead to pursue money through the sale and administration of unregulated substances used by trainers engaged in fraud and animal abuse.
“These latest convictions demonstrate the continued commitment of this Office and our partners at the FBI to the investigation and prosecution of corruption, fraud, and endangerment at every level of the horse racing industry.”
• View the Department of Justice statement