First Ever: Bettor Sues Harness Racing Trainer for Doping, Racketeering, Fraud

Lawsuit Opens Door for Thousands of Horse Racing Bettors to Sue Over Illegal Use of Medication or Prohibited Substances

For Immediate Release:
March 7, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Newark, N.J.

In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, a bettor is alleging that a horse trainer and owner have violated state and federal racketeering laws and engaged in fraud by illegally doping a horse used for harness racing. As reported by the Associated Press this morning, Illinois-based bettor Jeff Tretter alleges that trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. and owner J.L. Sadowsky LLC illegally influenced the outcome of a January 2016 race at Meadowlands, an East Rutherford harness track. The horse in question, Tag Up and Go, tested positive for erythropoietin (or EPO), a banned substance that increases the production of red blood cells.

The complaint also alleges that both Bresnahan and Sadowsky falsely affirmed via their racing application that the horse had not been illegally drugged. If the trainer is found liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, he could be required to pay up to three times the amount of the bettor’s losses.

While final placing of the horses in a race can be changed and winning purses redistributed in such cases, bettors are not compensated for losses because of drug violations. The plaintiff in this case approached PETA with his concerns about the effect of the illegal substance on Tag Up and Go’s performance.

“The use of illegal substances and the misuse of legal medications not only harms horses—it amounts to race fixing,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “This lawsuit is a wake-up call for any trainers who dope horses—they could be sued for racketeering and fraud by bettors who lose money from betting on a race in which a horse is running under the influence.”

Drugged horses suffer as well, as performance-enhancing drugs often mask their pain, allowing them to race and train with injuries that would otherwise be disabling. In 2014, PETA released an exposé documenting that medication was misused by the horse racing industry. As a result, trainer Steve Asmussen was fined $10,000, sweeping new medication regulations were introduced in New York State, and a federal bill was introduced that would put the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in charge of overseeing medication use and drug violations in horse racing.

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