French authorities on Tuesday arrested three members of one of France’s foremost racehorse-training families on suspicion of doping and fraud, Le Parisien reports.
Cédric Rossi, along with his uncle, Fréderic, and brother, Charley, were taken into custody at their training center in Calas, near Marseilles.
Meanwhile, in a coordinated raid in Paris, police detained Charley Rossi’s partner, top Italian jockey Jessica Marcialis. Eleven others were arrested in the Paris swoop, among them vets, trainers, and jockeys.
The raids were carried out by agents of the Service Central des Courses et Jeux (SCCJ), a branch of the national police that investigates gambling crimes.
Win or Die Trying
The Rossi family have been major players in French horse racing for three generations, and has lately been very successful. Its stable star, Sealiway, won the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, earning the family £714,500 (US$943,000).
Last year, Marcialis became the first female jockey to win a Group 1 race, the highest level of thoroughbred racing. She rode Tiger Tanaka to victory at the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. The horse was trained by her partner, Charley Rossi.
But Le Parisien suggested the family’s success has raised suspicion in racing circles, coupled with recent deaths of their horses on the racetrack and during training.
Following a ten-month investigation involving electronic and human surveillance, the SCCJ suspects the Rossis of orchestrating “an organized system of horse doping,” according to Le Parisien.
France Galop, the body that oversees racing in France, said in a statement that the fight against doping was an “absolute priority” for the racing industry, which pumps €10 million (US$11.3 million) a year into preventative measures.
These include administering 30,000 doping tests per year on racehorses, which are carried out before races, in training, and at stud farms. Many are unannounced, said France Galop.
The arrests came just a day after the death of Medina Spirit, the horse at the center of the doping controversy at this year’s Kentucky Derby. The colt is believed to have suffered a heart attack while training at Santa Anita in California on Monday.
Medina Spirit failed a doping test shortly after winning the derby in May. Trainer Bob Baffert denies doping, blaming the test result on an ointment he had used to treat a rash on the horse.
Meanwhile, in September, trainer Jorge Navarro pleaded guilty to administering performance enhancing drugs to horses under his care. He has agreed to pay $25.9 million in restitution, representing the amount he won from races where he admitted his horses were doped. He is currently awaiting custodial sentence.
Navarro was one of dozens arrested last year for complicity in a long-running doping scheme. Also among them was Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security, who appeared to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference.
Servis denies the charges and is awaiting trial.