Veterinarian Faces 20-Year Prison Sentence in Federal Horse Racing Doping Case

  • Seth Fishman was creating and distributing “untestable” PEDs for racehorses
  • He earned millions of dollars by selling these drugs to horse trainers
  • Fishman’s actions over nearly 20 years led to extensive animal abuse and fraud
  • 27 people were initially indicted in March 2020 following a multi-year investigation
Person holding a syringe with a racehorse in the background
Veterinarian Seth Fishman was found guilty of creating and distributing PEDs for racehorses and is facing up to 20 years in prison. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Long-running operation

A veterinarian is potentially facing 20 years in prison for his role in a horse racing doping scheme. Seth Fishman was convicted on Wednesday in a Manhattan federal court on “two counts of drug adulteration and misbranding, with intent to defraud and mislead.”

selling the drugs to horse trainers across the US and around the world

In a scheme that lasted for nearly two decades, Fishman created and distributed performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) that he alleged would be able to evade anti-doping controls. Fishman earned millions of dollars through his company, Equestology, selling the drugs to horse trainers across the US and around the world. He would create customized drugs for individual customers to lower the risk that a failed doping test for one trainer’s horse would also impact the rest of his clients.

The trial in the Southern District of New York lasted 11 days. During closing arguments on Tuesday, a prosecutor told jurors that Fishman was “a drug dealer, not a veterinarian.” The jury found Fishman guilty; District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil will sentence Fishman at a later date.

No escape for Fishman

Following Fishman’s conviction, US Attorney Damian Williams said that the defendant had “cynically violated” his oath to care and protect animals by serving “corrupt trainers” and pursuing profits. His selling of unstable, unsafe, and untested drugs led to both animal abuse and fraud.

There were many twists and turns during the course of the trial. At one stage, Fishman missed a court appearance as a result of an unexplained hospitalization. Details of conversations overheard through FBI wiretaps regarding the setting up of a “program” in Dubai were also played for the court.

Fishman went to extreme lengths to hide what he was doing

Fishman went to extreme lengths to hide what he was doing, including creating a sham business in Panama, making employees sign non-disclosure agreements, and lying to investigators in 2011 during an investigation in Delaware. He bragged to people that he used a “personal political favor” to close that investigation in 2011.

A wide-ranging case

A total of 27 trainers, veterinarians, and other horse racing industry participants were initially indicted as part of the case. Fishman’s is the first verdict relating to the indictments made in March 2020, coming off the back of a multi-year investigation into the abuse of racehorses through PEDs.

In addition to being against horse racing rules, PEDs are very harmful to horses. They can lead to severe heart issues, catastrophic injuries, and death.

Some defendants have already entered deals to testify against others, while some have already pleaded guilty, including well-known thoroughbred horse trainer Jorge Navarro. He pleaded guilty in August to drug charges, was given a five-year prison sentence, and has to pay restitution of $25.8m.

Jason Servis, another high-profile thoroughbred horse trainer, has been indicted in this case and is set to face trial in 2022. He had trained the initial winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security, which ended up getting disqualified for interfering with another horse.