One of the leading trainers in America has admitted his part in what has been described as a ‘global doping scheme’ in horse racing.
Jorge Navarro appeared in a Manhattan court this week to admit his involvement in the conspiracy, which allegedly involves the systematic delivery of performance-enhancing drugs to racehorses in his control.
Not only has he dragged the sport of horse racing through the mud in the United States, where the likes of Bob Baffert are facing doping investigations of their own, but he could also face a jail term as long as five years for his part in the scheme.
Navarro has agreed to pay $25.9 million in compensation, which is the proportion of his $34.9 million prize money that is believed to have been ‘tainted’ by doping.
The major-winning trainer has pleaded guilty to a number of charges related to the general accusation of doping, and those are linked to his horse X Y Jet, the winner of the Dubai Golden Shaheen in the UAE.
It was in that race in March 2019, which earned Navarro and connections some $1.5 million in prize money, that has come under the most scrutiny. The trainer has admitted administering a substance called ‘Monkey’ to the gelding, which is a stimulant said to aid in endurance. X Y Jet died in January 2020 of a suspected heart attack.
Speaking after his court date, Navarro said:
“I was the organiser for a criminal activity that involved five or more participants. I coordinated the administration of non-FDA approved drugs that were misbranded or adulterated to horses under my care.
“I abused a position of trust, as I was a licensed horse trainer and the horses were in my custody at the time.”
After hearing the trainer’s plea of guilt, the Manhattan attorney Audrey Strauss was damning of Navarro’s conduct. “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.”
The Evidence is Mounting
Aside from Navarro’s guilty plea and the ongoing investigations into Baffert’s conduct, there is plenty more going on in US horse racing to suggest there are major problems with doping in the sport.
In the past 18 months, the number of trainers, owners and medical staff that have been charged for doping offences totals 31, and rather than being concentrated in one area those ‘crimes’ have been committed from New York and New Jersey to Kentucky and Ohio.
One of the most prominent cases involves Jason Servis, who has trained a number of horses but whose prized asset, Maximum Security, was disqualified retrospectively after winning the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The horse also won the Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race at $20 million, although victory has also come under scrutiny in the wake of the doping allegations against Servis.
The plot thickens. Servis is, allegedly, seeking an injunction that would suppress wiretap evidence against him – some of which has been recorded on Navarro’s phone.
One thing that is for sure is that the doping culture in American horse racing appears to be more significant than anyone ever imagined….