‘He earned a living from greed and horse abuse’: Vet who peddled illegal drugs jailed for 11 years

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  • A US vet who peddled “untested, unsafe and unstable” performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing over nearly two decades has been jailed for 11 years.

    Seth Fishman was convicted of two counts of drug adulteration and misbranding, with intent to defraud and mislead, in February, and was sentenced this week. The 51-year-old from Florida was one of more than 30 people charged, in four cases, in March 2020, as a result of an investigation into abuse of racehorses by the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

    US Attorney Damian Williams said at the time of conviction: “The jury’s swift conviction of Seth Fishman reflects the overwhelming evidence of his guilt as displayed through this trial. As an ostensible veterinarian – sworn to the care and protection of animals – Fishman cynically violated his oath in service of corrupt trainers and in the pursuit of profits.

    “Through the sale of untested, unsafe, and unstable drugs, Fishman’s illegal drug business was a platform for both fraud and animal abuse. Today’s conviction appropriately condemns the danger inherent in Fishman’s crimes and underscores the seriousness with which this office takes the kind of abuse that Fishman practised.”

    It was found at the trial that his charges related to a long-term investigation into “widespread schemes by racehorse trainers, veterinarians, performance-enhancing drug [PED] distributors, and others to manufacture, distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses competing at all levels of professional horseracing”.

    “By evading PED prohibitions and deceiving regulators and horseracing officials, participants in these schemes sought to improve race performance and obtain prize money from racetracks throughout the United States and other countries… all to the detriment and risk of the health and wellbeing of the racehorses,” a spokesman for the US Attorney’s office said.

    “Trainers who participated in the schemes stood to profit from the success of racehorses under their control by earning a share of their horses’ winnings, and by improving their horses’ racing records, thereby yielding higher trainer fees and increasing the number of racehorses under their control. Indicted veterinarians profited from the sale and administration of these medically unnecessary, misbranded, and adulterated substances.

    “Fishman, acting as the manufacturer and distributor of customised PEDs designed specifically to evade anti-doping controls, reaped millions of dollars from the sale of his drugs to trainers around the United States and across the globe.”

    It was found that Fishman targeted clients in the racing industry, “peddling dozens of unsafe and untested drugs that purported to have performance-enhancing effects on racehorses”. “He created and marketed these drugs as ‘untestable’ under typical anti-doping drug screens and extolled the virtues of these illegal drugs by describing his method of creating customised products for individual customers in order to silo product lines to reduce the likelihood that detection of doping by trainer would undermine the remainder of Fishman’s corrupt clientele,” the spokesman said.

    Misleading and lying

    Over the nearly 20 years in which he ran his “doping company” Equestology, Fishman, “took additional efforts to mislead and lie to regulatory authorities in an effort to shield his illegal activity”.

    He incorporated a sham business in Panama designed to appear as if his drug operation was outside the jurisdiction of US authorities, “pressured employees to sign non-disclosure agreements intended to gag them if questioned by regulators, designed labels that would give no hint as to the provenance of the unsafe drugs shipped across the country and lied to state investigators regarding the nature of his business when asked directly about his role in Equestology during a Delaware state investigation in 2011, while also bragging to others that he had called in a ‘personal political favour’ to quash that investigation”.

    The court heard Fishman claimed to practise as a legitimate vet, using his licence for cover for his drug business. He sold illicit substances including prescription drugs, with fake prescriptions for animals he had never seen or discussed, the spokesman said.

    He added: “Those drugs included intravenous and intramuscular injectables that Fishman sold to laypeople for injection into the horses under their purported ‘care’, many of which were seized at premises throughout the country at the time of the original indictments in this case…. Those included ‘blood-building drugs, vasodilators and bags filled with scores of ‘bleeder pills’, each designed to covertly increase performance in affected horses.”

    The first count of which Fishman was convicted was in connection with the doping operation of convicted Jorge Navarro, the second in connection with Equestology.

    This week, Mr Williams added: “The sentence today sends a strong message that those looking to profit from the sale of illegal drugs intended to corruptly dope racehorses stand to face serious consequences for their crimes. The defendant earned his livelihood in service of greed and animal abuse, and will face a steep price for his crimes.”

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