FBI, Justice Dept launch major US racehorse doping investigation

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The US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York has indicted 27 individuals in connection with doping in the horse racing industry.

The investigation was announced on Monday by the FBI and the Department of Justice. The individuals indicted have been named by the US Attorney’s office. One of the indictments relates to the manufacture and distribution of “adulterated and misbranded” performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), and secretly administering them to racehorses in the US, the UAE and Australia. The indictment says that “millions of dollars worth of various misbranded and adulterated PEDs” were sold.

The Jockey Club has pledged its total cooperation into the investigation, and in a statement, said it had long been an advocate for drug reform in racing and commended the actions of 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 said.

“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, New York, 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 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.”

Animal advocacy group Peta is calling for a permanent ban from racing of all guilty trainers and veterinarians as well as any other conspirator, and for criminal charges of cruelty to animals to be added.

“These crimes cheat bettors of billions of dollars and are egregiously cruel to horses, resulting in rampant injuries, pain, and deaths, such as those cited in the indictment,” PETA Senior vice-president Kathy Guillermo said.

The Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA), a grassroots movement of individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the racing, says the appointment of an independent anti-doping program run by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would resolve the problem of widespread drug use in American racing and put US racing jurisdictions in step with international standards.

“Doping destroys public confidence in racing, defrauds the betting fan, weakens the genetic pool and, most importantly, puts the life and limb of our equine athletes and their jockeys at risk,” a statement from WHOA said.

Staci Hancock of WHOA said: “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.

“Nothing could more dramatically highlight what is wrong with drugs in racing and nothing but the legislation can correct these deficiencies.”

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