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Vet Rhein Expected to Enter Guilty Plea in Doping Case

On a wiretap, Rhein discussed lab testing after Maximum Security received SGF-1000.

Trainer Jason Servis (right) with Maximum Security in June 2019 at Monmouth Park

Trainer Jason Servis (right) with Maximum Security in June 2019 at Monmouth Park

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Veterinarian Dr. Kristian Rhein, one of more than two dozen individuals charged with the sale, use, or distribution of adulterated and misbranded performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing, along with trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, has a change-of-plea hearing scheduled for Aug. 3. Rhein will enter a guilty plea, according to a document submitted to the court by Rita Glavin, an attorney representing Servis.

Mary Kay Vyskocil, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, will hear the matter at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The New York-based Rhein and others had their licenses suspended in March 2020 following the federal indictments. Prosecutors allege Rhein conspired with Servis to treat horses with a product called SGF-1000.

According to the indictment, around June 5, 2019, New Jersey regulators tested Maximum Security , an elite horse Servis trained at the time for Gary and Mary West, ahead of the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, shortly after the horse received a shot of SGF-1000. During an intercepted call between Servis and Rhein, the veterinarian said, "They don't even have a test for it (SGF-1000) ... There's no test for it in America."

He added the test might show a false positive for "dex," a reference to the corticosteroid and anti-inflammatory dexamethasone.

Maximum Security finished second in the Pegasus Stakes after stumbling at the break, one race after he crossed the wire first before stewards disqualified him for interference in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs. A month after the Pegasus, the colt won the TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth.

Compounded and manufactured in unregistered facilities, SGF-1000 was an intravenous drug promoted as a vasodilator capable of promoting stamina, endurance, and lower heart rates in horses through the purported action of "growth factors" supposedly derived from sheep placenta. 

According to the indictment, Rhein was a sales representative and consultant for Medivet Equine, the same company for which Michael Kegley Jr. worked as director of sales. Kegley entered a guilty plea July 23.

With the change of plea, Glavin was granted an extension until Aug. 2 by Vyskocil for a motion to suppress.

"Until today, we fully expected Mr. Rhein would be filing a motion to suppress the T-III wiretaps on his cellular phone, over which both of our clients were intercepted," she wrote in part to the judge July 28. "To that end, we planned to join his motion and incorporate his arguments and exhibits by reference. Because Mr. Rhein is pleading guilty and not filing any such motion, we must now raise those arguments in our own motions."

Robert Baum, counsel for veterinarian Alexander Chan, joined Glavin's request. Chan was accused in the federal indictment of, under the direction of Servis, administering misbranded and adulterated PEDs, including SGF-1000 and prescription veterinary drugs without a valid medical reason.

The Servis and Navarro cases are ongoing, though the government has secured guilty pleas from other individuals. Besides Kegley, Scott Robinson and Sarah Izhaki each pleaded guilty to charges related to their roles in performance-enhancing drug charges, as did Scott Mangini.