'Grow Some Balls, Juice Him Up': In Pre-Sentencing Letter, Prosecutors Say Tannuzzo Learned From Navarro Doping Program - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘Grow Some Balls, Juice Him Up’: In Pre-Sentencing Letter, Prosecutors Say Tannuzzo Learned From Navarro Doping Program

Trainer Jorge Navarro

Jorge Navarro, the admitted cheater who last December was sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in a wide-ranging horse-doping scheme busted by the FBI, appeared to be something of a mentor to fellow Thoroughbred trainer Michael Tannuzzo.

Like mentors often do, Navarro challenged Tannuzzo to be the best he could be. He offered advice on how and when to administer various illegal performance-enhancing drugs to get the best effect and to avoid detection by testing laboratories.

In the end, however, Navarro said it was up to Tannuzzo.

“Grow some balls,” Navarro said to Tannuzzo in a text message after offering to administer clenbuterol to one of Tannuzzo's horses. “Juice him up.”

“OK,” Tannuzzo responded, according to a pre-sentencing letter submitted by federal prosecutors to Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, who will determine whether Tannuzzo will go to prison and for how long. Tannuzzo pleaded guilty in July to one count of drug adulteration and misbranding as part of a plea agreement.

At his change of plea hearing (which came after the court denied motions to dismiss and to suppress evidence, and after two other defendants were convicted in a jury trial), Tannuzzo downplayed his own cheating.

“Tannuzzo stated – despite evidence to the contrary – that his conduct consisted of connecting a trainer (“Trainer-1”) with co-defendant Ross Cohen for the purpose of enabling Trainer-1 to purchase 'Monkey,' a drug Tannuzzo claimed he 'never used.' …

“Tannuzzo selectively admits to certain of his offense conduct, then insists that he did not ever personally administer PEDs to a horse, and that he only 'banter[ed]' but did not take 'actual action.'”

Prosecutors said Tannuzzo's “narrative … belies the scope and extent of his offense conduct.”

The pre-sentencing letter said Tannuzzo “routinely” obtained blood builders like “Monkey” from Cohen and sought PEDs from Navarro and also assisted in the latter's doping program.

“Tannuzzo was not merely a spectator to Navarro's doping,” prosecutors wrote. “Tannuzzo used Navarro to gain insight and access to PEDs beyond those Tannuzzo was independently procuring.”

In one intercepted conversation between Navarro and Tannuzzo, Navarro explained how to administer a product he was told was similar to the blood-doping agent EPO.

“Here is what I want you to do, Mikey,” Navarro said. “Tomorrow, you pull the blood as soon as the vet turns around. This powder you mix it with 2ccs of water. … Alright so you mix and then you give it to the vein, whatever you mix it with 2ccs, 2.5 ccs, 3ccs, doesn't matter. Alright, so tomorrow is Friday. Saturday I want you to come in and give her a build-up. Monday, I want you to come and give her a build-up. Wednesday, I want you to come and give her a build-up. Okay.

“But this is the generic,” Navarro said, apparently referring to a compounded product. “The real (EPO) you got three days. Alright, that's why Nick Surick (co-defendant due who also pleaded guilty and is due for sentencing in December) called me, 'Jorge, I'm in trouble, I did the real one, what do I do?' I said they can't pull blood the first three days. The fourth day, they see a cloud, but they don't know what the fuck it is.”

Navarro was referring to how long after administering the FDA-approved EPO, or erythropoietin, it is detectable in drug tests. Prosecutors said Surick had administered EPO to a racehorse shortly before the New Jersey Racing Commission showed up to take out-of-competition samples for the horse. He then directed his staff to try and hide the horse from regulators.

Prosecutors also said Tannuzzo obtained the adulterated and misbranded drug SGF-1000 from co-defendant Kristian Rhein. In an intercepted conversation with Tannuzzo on June 29, 2019, Rhein explained the potency of the drug and how and when to administer it in advance of a specific race in which a Tannuzzo runner would be entered.

“Pop him with this thing though before he runs,” Rhein said. “You know, three, four days, doesn't matter. Whatever you want. I mean but just – it doesn't need anything else.

“Just give it and he will come out of there (like) he was shot out of a fucking gun.”

When the two spoke June 30, 2019, Rhein said an injection could be done three to four days before a race.

“I gave it to him today,” said Tannuzzo. “That's only six days out.”

According to Equibase, Tannuzzo ran two horses six days later. On July 6, 2019, Flying P Stable's Rocket Heat finished second at 8-1 odds in the Grade 3, $200,000 Parx Dash. That same day, Flying P Stable's Rockford finished second as the 8-5 favorite in a $12,500 claiming race at Monmouth Park.

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“Tannuzzo's efforts to obtain the aforementioned drugs was not mere 'banter,'” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant's self-serving claims in his sentencing submission that he did not ever 'follow through and dope horses' in light of his conversations and efforts to obtain PEDs defies common sense.”

The government is recommending a prison sentence of between 30 to 36 months. Sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 21, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 500 Pearl Street, New York, N.Y.

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