Federal prosecutors in the U.S Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York announced four indictments of 27 people allegedly involved in a horse-racing doping ring on Monday.
Of note among the 27 is Jason Servis, a trainer whose racers include Maximum Security, a high-profile colt who won the $10 million Saudi Cup this past month, and Louis Grasso, a New York-based vet with a criminal history.
“These men allegedly saw the $100 billion dollar global horse racing industry as their way to get rich at the expense of the animals that were doing all the hard work,” Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a press release. “Our investigation reveals the cruelty and inhumane treatment these horses suffered all to win a race.”
PEDs dominate scandal
Grasso is at the center of one of the four indictments. According to court documents, Grasso is accused of participating in a scheme to “manufacture, distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses.”
The indictment names erythropoietin (also known as “EPO”) as one of the drugs Grasso allegedly administered from “at least” 2017 to 2020, along with drugs that:
- Blocked pain
- Increased lung capacity
- Reduce inflammation
The indictment also indicates Grasso allegedly violated FDA rules when he, according to the indictment, provided approved drugs and non-approved performance-enhancing drugs without a prescription.
EPO has deadly side effects
The Grasso indictment reveals that, in October 2019, Thomas Guido III, a horse trainer named in the case, asked Grasso for 4,000 prescriptions of EPO.
Dr. Leigh Davidson, an Australia-based equine veterinarian, said EPO is a dangerous performance-enhancing drug with benefits that trainers leverage for racehorses.
The drug stimulates red blood cells, which increases the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to organs, including muscles.
“When recombinant human EPO is given to a horse it increases the aerobic (oxygen) capacity of the muscles and, in turn, this increases stamina, endurance and recovery time,” Davidson said. “It is primarily given to horses that run over distance as opposed to sprinters.”
The increased performance comes at a cost, though.