Former trainer Jorge Navarro, one of the pivotal figures in a federal investigation into alleged doping of Thoroughbreds, was sentenced to the maximum five years in prison Friday.
Along with the sentence, Navarro was ordered to pay more than $26.8 million in restitution. That figure represents the amount of earnings his horses won in purse monies.
The Thoroughbred Daily News described Navarro weeping openly at his sentencing. The five years US District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil handed down was the maximum sentence at her disposal. That’s because Navarro earlier pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit drug adulteration and misbranding.
Vyskocil made it clear she was in no mood for leniency. She told Navarro that — despite defense attorney Jason Kreiss’ claim that Navarro was a caring horseman who let competitive training overwhelm his decision making — nobody who loves horses “subjects them to such cruel and dangerous treatment.”
‘… A collective, callous disregard for the well-being of the horses’
“For years, Mr. Navarro, you effectively stole millions, cheating other trainers, owners, and jockeys who you competed against,” Vyskocil said during the 90-minute hearing. “You also demonstrated, Mr. Navarro, a collective, callous disregard for the well-being of the horses. Bottom line, you likely killed or endangered horses in your care.”
The prosecution, led by US Attorneys Damian Williams and Sarah Mortazavi, painted a disturbing picture of an unprincipled, callous trainer who not only freely gave his horses a smorgasbord of performance-enhancing drugs, but bragged about this to owners and even other trainers.
Vyskocil brought up the fact Navarro strolled around in a pair of Crocs with his self-administered nickname, “Juice Man,” prominent on the toes.
Navarro’s fellow trainer, Servis fighting his charges
One of those other trainers, Jason Servis, is the other pivotal figure in the sweeping case. Servis was arrested with Navarro in March 2020, but unlike Navarro and other defendants in the case, has fought the charges.
“Jorge Navarro’s case reflects failings, greed, and corruption at virtually every level of the world of professional horse racing,” Williams said in a statement released by the US Department of Justice. “For money and fame, corrupt trainers went to increasing extremes to dope horses under their care … Structures designed for the protection of the horses abused in this case failed repeatedly; fixtures of the industry — owners, veterinarians, and trainers — flouted rules and disregarded their animals’ health while hypocritically incanting a love for the horses under their control and ostensible protection. Standing as the keystone for this structure of abuse, corruption, and duplicity was Jorge Navarro, a trainer who treated animals as expendable commodities in the service of his ‘sport.’ Today’s sentence appropriately condemns the danger inherent in Navarro’s crime.”
What sealed Navarro’s fate, as much as his cavalier attitude, was the tragic case of X Y Jet. The 8-year-old gelding, a 12-time winner, died suddenly in January 2020. Navarro said the multiple graded-stakes winner died of a heart attack.
Navarro’s doping of X Y Jet cited by prosecution
According to the 2020 indictment, Navarro administered a PED nicknamed “monkey” to X Y Jet prior to his victory in the 2019 Dubai Golden Shaheen. “Monkey” is an illegal version of Erythropoietin, which increases a horse’s red blood cell count. That increases a horse’s oxygen and thereby helps endurance and recovery.
It also thickens the blood, which puts pressure on a horse’s circulatory system during intense physical exertion. That can lead to serious illness or death.
The Daily Racing Form reported that Navarro’s sentence will begin in February. Earlier this month, his lawyers filed a brief maintaining Navarro could face deportation to his native Panama after serving his sentence.
Navarro has lived legally in the US for 35 years.
“Navarro’s crime was far from a single lapse in judgment,” Williams said in his statement. “Rather, Navarro engaged in repeated and persistent efforts to cheat over the course of years, cycling through various sources of supply, and pursuing aggressively new means to illegally dope horses. Throughout, Navarro maintained a flippant attitude toward his dangerous and illegal conduct.”