View From The Eighth Pole: Veterinarian Grasso Deserves Maximum Sentence For Horse Doping - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

View From The Eighth Pole: Veterinarian Grasso Deserves Maximum Sentence For Horse Doping

Louis Grasso first came across my radar screen when I began investigating Eclipse Award-winning owner Michael Gill's Elk Creek Ranch in Pennsylvania in 2010. Gill, who had been the leading North American owner by wins and money earned in 2009 – the fourth time he led both categories – had assembled what I called a “Gang of Misfits” at the training center that included a number of current and future felons and rule breakers.

Grasso was one of those misfits.

Based on information provided by a whistleblower working at Elk Creek, Grasso, a New York-based veterinarian who primarily dealt with Standardbreds, would drive to the Chester County facility on a regular basis to treat Gill's horses with medication that Gill's principal vet, the late Kevin Brophy, apparently didn't have.

Years earlier, Grasso had been forced to surrender his racing license in New York and New Jersey after being the central figure in two criminal cases involving illegal medication. He was convicted in federal court in 1991 for selling anabolic steroids to an undercover agent and in 2005 was caught by Delaware police with what a racing commission source said was a “treasure trove” of prohibited drugs – including blood doping agents – after a high-speed car chase. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and put on probation with the threat that any violation may result in charges involving the confiscated drugs.

Veterinary boards took no action against Grasso.

It was not particularly surprising when I learned Grasso was one of those rounded up in the March 2020 FBI bust after a lengthy investigation into illegal doping in both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.

The indictment of Grasso was an eye-opener.

The volume of his doping was prodigious. Prosecutors alleged he supplied illegal drugs – including snake venom, a “pain shot,” and blood-doping agents – to trainers across the United States.  In 2019 alone, the indictment states, Grasso submitted false prescription information for drugs containing erythropoietin (EPO) to more than 10 pharmacies in at least seven states. Just for one trainer, Grasso is said to have ordered 4,000 units of EPO.

Grasso deceived government agencies, racing regulators, pharmacies, and the betting public, prosecutors said, ordering powerful drugs for non-existent animals using licenses of other veterinarians in some cases to try to avoid suspicion. He then peddled them to trainers seeking an illegal edge. He was caught on wiretap talking about horses who may have died because they were “over juiced” by a trainer. “I've seen that happen 20 times,” he added.

Grasso, who pleaded guilty to one count of drug adulteration and misbranding on May 11, 2022, goes before U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in New York for a sentencing hearing on Oct. 27. He faces five years or more in federal prison.

Glenn Garber, Grasso's attorney, submitted a letter to the judge asking for leniency for Grasso, who is 66 years old and said to be in bad health after contracting COVID earlier this year and “nearly died.” Garber believes 18 months of home confinement is “sufficient.”

Grasso submitted his own letter to the judge, asking him to “find it in your heart to give me some kind of break.”

He wrote: “From the onset I would like to say I take full responsibility for my actions. I did wrong and accept whatever you decide the proper penalty is for me. Unfortunately, I did not think in my wildest dreams that it would come to this, but I accept what lies in front of me.”

In other words, Grasso, like so many criminals who go before a judge, is sorry. Sorry he got caught. He even admits that in his “wildest dreams” he'd never face consequences for doping horses.

The rest of his letter focuses on growing up in a “middle class Italian family,” being a good family man, and living modestly. “I don't have much in the way of money or possessions,” Grasso wrote. “I have no savings, I have little cash. … Because of my limited savings, I realize that I will probably have to work in some capacity for the rest of my life.”

Grasso then goes into great detail about his health challenges due to COVID, listing all the medications he has to take and the effects it's had on him. “I feel like I will not make 70 based on how I feel and how I am progressing,” Grasso writes.

And then, at the end of a 1,200-word letter, Grasso finally writes that he “regrets” his actions. “I apologize to all the parties involved,” he said. “I apologize to the federal government, the state, your court, my family, and the veterinary profession.”

There is no apology to the sport, nor to the honest owners and trainers who were cheated out of wins, purse money, and dreams because of Grasso's doping. No apologies over the horses who were doped to perform or even died from being “over juiced” by his illegal drugs. And there was certainly no apology to the betting public, which had to learn how to handicap cheaters rather than the racing lines in the past performances.

This is not remorse. This is pathetic. Bad health or not, Grasso is a three-time loser who deserves the maximum sentence possible.

That's my view from the eighth pole.

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