SA’s Racing Executive Must Be Incorruptible

The 'Lancaster Bomber' man with more to chew on!

“We f*** everyone”…….. brags Jorge Navarro…

C John Smith writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that he hates to say this but it comes as no surprise to him that US horseracing is riddled with dodgy dealing and crime – and it saddens him greatly that this noble sport of ours has been so badly besmirched that it may never recover.

Racing Post reports that “in a landmark moment for global horseracing, Navarro, who has trained over 1000 winners (including the 2019 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner X Y Jet) admitted intentionally giving or directing others to give illegal blood builders, vaso and bronchodilators, bleeder pills and the designer drug SGF-1000 to his horses between 2016 and March 2000 to boost their performance in races and avoid detection in pre and post-race drug testing”

And he is not alone, 27 others were arrested by the FBI in March last year following undercover investigations and wiretaps

If you want your gast to be even more flabbered, Navarro went on to admit “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!”

Jorge Navarro (Pic – Gulfstream Park)

“I abused a position of trust as I was a licensed horse trainer and the horses were in my custody at the time of the offence”

Earlier this month US vet, Kristian Rhein pleaded guilty for his part in the conspiracy, admitting that he had doped Maximum Security with SGF -1000 prior to his run in a Listed race at Monmouth Park last year.

In an intercepted call, Rhein said: “They don’t even have a test for it (SGF – 1000) …there’s no test for it in America”

So what is SGF – 1000? It is a complex solution made up unique proteins, cytokines, peptides and growth factors derived from ovine (sheep) placental extract. And it’s totally banned in all racing centres around the world – with compliance enforced by every regional racing control authority.

William Sweeney, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI New York office said at a news conference.

“What actually happened to the horses amounted to nothing less than abuse”.

“They experienced cardiac issues, overexertion leading to leg fractures, increased risk of injury and in some cases, death”.

“Conversely, the human beings involved in the scheme continued to line their purses as they manipulated this multibillion-dollar horse racing industry across the globe”

Navarro may go to prison for five years and will have to pay back $25 million to the victims of his crimes. But I doubt if he gives two figs – he will have plenty salted away.

So what does all this have to do with us in Southern Africa? I am going to suggest plenty.

As if the public trust in our industry needs any further kicks. Punter confidence is vital if turnover is to prosper and it is this turnover which contributes significantly to purses.

Owners might also become more hesitant bidders at sales if they doubt the integrity of our sport. This then can impact negatively on prices and the number of horses in training and thus the viability of the breeding industry.

Then we have the animal rights lobby – this nonsense is massive grist to their mill.

It is perhaps timeous that this issue has come to the fore as we consider the structure and role of the NHA.

If you read my column last week, you will know where I stand – foursquare behind the Racing Control Executive function of the NHA.

OK there may be things the NHA can improve on – a fair comment – but let’s be very clear, the overriding consideration – can we be sure that the malpractices found in the States have not found their way into the industry in our part of the world?

For the industry I passionately support, I am going to say “I hope not”. However, I suspect I am wrong.

National Horseracing Authority

It is for this reason that I believe we need a strong, well-funded, well- resourced, fearless, effective and independent Racing Control Executive staffed by the incorruptible.

And when they discover malpractice they mete out maximum punishments – if for nothing else, deterrence.

Our industry has been severely damaged by crooks like Navarro and Rhein – let us in Southern Africa fight back with integrity as our core principle.

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