By Robert Gearty
A New York jury heard a full day of testimony Jan. 21 in the horse doping trial of Dr. Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli. The entire morning and most of the afternoon featured a second day of testimony from a woman who worked for Fishman at his Florida business Equestology for five years.
Courtney Adams, 34, testifying from Florida via video conference, told jurors that Fishman and Equestology were all about “testability.” That meant creating “product” that couldn't be detected in post-race testing by horse racing authorities, she said.
During her testimony in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, prosecutors showed an email in which a veterinarian who was a client of Equestology asked about one of the products, equine growth hormone, and whether it was testable.
“That was our biggest selling point, that he specialized in making product that wasn't testable,” Adams testified, referring to Fishman.
The witness, who had been an Equestology office manager and then a sales rep, said that Fishman told her there was a risk of regulators coming up with a test to detect the substance. If that happened, Fishman said he would have to create another product that would be undetectable, she said.
“That was the whole point of that product to be not testable,” Adams testified.
Fishman and Giannelli face conspiracy charges in a wide-ranging scheme to dope horses with performance-enhancing drugs to boost the treated horses' chances of winning races. Those charged include prominent trainer Jason Servis, who has maintained a not guilty plea and is awaiting trial. Others, such as trainer Jorge Navarro, have pled guilty and been sentenced.
Prosecutors say the accused were motivated by greed to win races and acted without regard to the welfare and safety of horses.
While on the stand, Adams admitted helping to mislabel products that Fishman created for clients around the country and in the United Arab Emirates. She said she also shipped vials of product without any labels.
Under questioning by prosecutor Andrew Adams, the witness said that she knew “in general terms” that some of those who purchased Fishman's drugs were horse trainers.
“He would discuss why they wanted them and why they were being used by them,” she testified.
“And did he say why they were being used by trainers?” the prosecutor asked.
“He said they were being used because they were untestable,” Adams replied.
The jury also heard the witness cite the names of some of the drugs Equestology sold.
Those products included Endurance, Bleeder, Hormone Therapy Pack, HP Bleeder Plus, and PSDS.
Adams testified that PSDS stood for Pain Shot Double Strength, describing it as a “double strength product for pain.”
She indicated she didn't know what the other substances were for.
Adams said she stopped working for Equestology in 2017.
“I was over it to be honest,” Adams testified. “I didn't want to do it anymore.”
As she left, Fishman asked her not to discuss their business with anyone, Adams noted.
“I said okay,” she said.
She said in 2018 investigators with the Food and Drug Administration approached her to ask about Fishman. She said she wasn't comfortable talking to them without a lawyer.
After Fishman, Giannelli, Servis, and about two dozen others connected to horse racing were indicted in March 2020 in the doping case, Adams said a friend sent her a link with a story about the arrests.
She said after reading it she contacted law enforcement.
“I read the story, and I realized they didn't have the whole story, and I felt obliged to give it to them,” Adams told the jury.
She said as a result of the information she provided, government lawyers offered her a non-prosecution agreement.
During cross-examination, Fishman's attorney Maurice Sercarz sought to suggest that Adams was motivated to contact law enforcement out of personal animosity against Fishman.
She admitted that before she left Equestology, Fishman had accused her of theft and using Equestology funds to purchase personal items.
She told Sercarz she was upset about those accusations “because they were false.”
During his cross-examination, Giannelli's attorney, Louis Fasulo, questioned Adams about whether she would work at a place that put horses in danger.
No was her response.
Adams also said she didn't think she was breaking the law when labeling products she said were mislabeled.
Toward the end of the day, Long Island retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Angela Jett took the stand to read from notes of an interview she conducted with Fishman in 2010.
Jett said she had interviewed Fishman as a potential government witness in a $190 million securities fraud case. That case involved a magnate named David Brooks and a body-armor company he owned on Long Island. Fishman worked for Brooks, an owner of Standardbred racehorses that competed in New York and elsewhere.
According to the notes, Fishman told Jett that he had supplied performance-enhancing drugs to Brooks, who administered them to horses before racing.
Brooks was found guilty in 2010 of charges connected to the fraud and died in prison while serving a 17-year prison sentence.
Under cross-examination by Sercarz, Jett acknowledged that her notes don't say whether Fishman learned of the doping at the time it occurred or “after the fact.”
He also pointed out that Jett's notes show that when Brooks asked Fishman to dope a horse, Fishman refused.
Fishman's admissions to Jett never led to charges.
The trial resumes Jan. 24.
The Thoroughbred industry's leading publications are working together to cover this key trial.