Equestrianism is a sport just like any other, and the use of enhancement drugs is strictly prohibited for both horses and trainers. Last week, horse trainer Murray Rojas of Harrisburg was charged with medicating horses with enhancement drugs within 24 hours of their racing time, which is a crime.
Rojas wasn’t the only one responsible for the drugging of the horses; there were four veterinarians involved in the scheme. Investigators found that Rojas, along with the four vets, were backdating the records to indicate that the drugs were administered at a different time. There is a 24-hour period whereby you can’t administer medications to horses before race time. Those implicated in this criminal conspiracy trial illegally altered the medication record to cover up their practices.
Not only did Rojas illegally administer the drugs during the forbidden 24-hour period before the race, he was also found guilty of mislabeling the drugs to hide that they were prohibited race-day substances. Two years ago, the mislabeling led to charges of criminal conspiracy and wire fraud.
Rojas was found innocent for the charges of wire fraud, but he was not able to escape the criminal conspiracy charges. The wire fraud charges were due to the horses being transported from one state to another, and, therefore, the purse money won was claimed to be illegally obtained.
According to law firms Harrisburg, the sentencing phase of Rojas’ trial is yet to be determined. The charges she was convicted of can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison. Luckily escaping the wire-charges, she had the potential to spend up to twenty years in prison.
Known for two years as the top trainer for the Penn National, Rojas has not been able to train since she was indicted in 2015. The basis for the charges goes as far back as 2013 when she was accused of drugging as many as thirteen horses under her care. The four veterinarians in the case have already pled guilty and are likewise awaiting sentencing.
The criminal conspiracy charges could have been enhanced to drug-related charges, which would have been a federal offense. Many in the horse circuit believe that the drugging could have been settled at a lower level in the Pennsylvania Racing Commission; the equestrian world is using Rojas as an example to the racing world so the practice of doping is stopped.
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, although believing that what Rojas did was wrong, didn’t believe that it was tantamount to a federal crime. So, they contributed to her defense. The verdict of criminal conspiracy admitted her guilt of misusing drugs, but her being acquitted of wire fraud was a huge victory. Her criminal defense teams have already gone on record as saying they intend to appeal her conviction.
Rojas is an important individual in the horse training world. She began as a trainer nearly two decades ago and has been responsible for winning over 785 races. She might have sealed her own fate when she agreed to work with the FBI to uncover wide-range corruption perpetrated by the Penn National Organization. The investigation that she help take part in was what uncovered her own illegal practices. During the investigation, she became the suspect of illegal doping of prohibited race-day drugs.
Although not investigating Penn National for doping, the FBI was able to uncover what Rojas had been up to. The investigation itself also led to convictions of criminally supplying information in exchange for bribes and rigging the race results. There were also charges levied against an official clocker who took money in exchange for tampering with race times.
Likely, when Rojas agreed to help the FBI, she never thought that she would come under suspicion. Although being caught for two years of doping, it does beg the question of how many of the over seven hundred wins were likewise tampered with or enhanced by illegal doping of animals. The equestrian sport is not immune to unscrupulous practices any more than any other sport, especially in the world of racing where there are big payouts to be made and big dollar amounts for winning horse owners.