Mar 10, 2020 - Sports

Horse racing rocked by charges against 27 people in doping scandal

illustration of a trophy with a bunch of steroid needles
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

27 horse racing employees (trainers, veterinarians and others) were charged Monday in a "widespread, corrupt" doping scheme that cheated the betting public and likely contributed to the rise in racetrack fatalities.

The state of play: Among those charged was Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security, the horse that won last year's Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for impeding the path of two other horses.

  • "Maximum Security went on to win four of his next five races — including the $10 million first-place check last month in the world's richest race: the Saudi Cup at the King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh," per the New York Times.

Why it matters: This scandal comes amid a time of increased scrutiny on the horse racing industry, particularly in the U.S., where fatal racetrack injuries have been on the rise.

  • Nearly 10 horses died per week at U.S. racetracks in 2018, per the Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database, and California's Santa Anita Park, alone, has seen 40 deaths since December 2018.

Between the lines: The horses were "force-fed all manner of illegal and experimental drugs" that allowed them to run unnaturally fast and mask pain, often leading to injuries or death due to overexertion.

What they're saying:

"It's sad to know that there are people who are prepared to go to these lengths to cheat in our sport. ... If it happened in any sport it would be disappointing, and when you're talking about horses being put at risk, it's even more troubling."
— Longtime trainer Graham Motion, per WashPost

What to watch: This should build momentum around the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would establish an independent organization to regulate medication policy in horse racing.

Go deeper: 32nd horse dies at Santa Anita Park

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