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Jason Kelce apologizes for saying legendary racehorse Secretariat was on steroids following online backlash

The retired NFL star made comments about the legendary racehorse while discussing the recent Kentucky Derby with his brother, Travis Kelce, on their “New Heights” podcast.
/ Source: TODAY

Jason Kelce has apologized for saying that legendary racehorse Secretariat was given steroids during its iconic Triple Crown run in 1973, writing in part that it was "unfair to assume these things publicly."

The retired Philadelphia Eagles lineman issued an apology on X on May 9 for comments made a day earlier on the latest episode of his "New Heights" podcast with his younger brother, Chiefs' star Travis Kelce.

"I’m sorry everyone, wasn’t trying to get people riled up, I really thought it was just known that in the 70s steroid use was rampant," he posted on X. "I’m not trying to take away from Secretariat’s, or anyone from that eras legacy. You’re right, without proof it is unfair to assume these things publicly, I apologize."

Kelce brought up Secretariat when discussing the recent Kentucky Derby with his brother on the May 8 episode of "New Heights."

During their chat, Kelce noted that the records for the fastest times in horse racing's Triple Crown events — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — are still held by Secretariat from 1973.

"It's not that wild because Secretariat was juiced to the gills," Kelce said. "Secretariat just so happens to be right in the heart of the steroid era. 1973, every NFL player, every baseball player, they were juicing them to the gills. You don't think Secretariat was f----- juiced to the rafters?

"Of course it's the fastest horse of all time. They didn't drug test Secretariat the way they did (this year's Derby winner) Mystik Dan. Nobody talks about it. Secretariat was doping. There's no chance Secretariat wasn't doping."

Jockey Ron Turcotte sits atop of Secretariat.
Jockey Ron Turcotte sits atop of Secretariat on June 9, 1973 in Elmont, NY.Focus On Sport / Getty Images

His comments drew online backlash, with some horse racing followers defending the iconic horse.

"Take a second and check the facts out. It’s easy to do. Secretariat was one of the greatest race horses of all time. He did it without help," one person commented on the "New Heights" Instagram post.

"Secretariat’s heart weighed nearly three times that number! That was a huge part of what contributed to Secretariat’s stamina. C’mon Jason — you’re better than that!" another wrote.

"Take that back Jason!! Secretariat was a phenomenal horse who ran with his huge heart. There will never be another like him," another person commented.

While some commenters thought his take on Secretariat was meant to be a joke, Kelce doubled down on it with a lengthy post on X on May 9.

"Just going to put this out there, you know who else has enlarged hearts. People who take copious amounts of steroids," he wrote. "I’ll admit I don’t know whether Secretariat was on steroids or not, it’s impossible to know, because in 1973 when Secretariat won the triple crown there was not adequate testing available to find out."

"I’m not saying what Secretariat did was unimpressive, because he was likely also racing against other majorly juiced up horses of his time, and if Secretariat was indeed a natural horse, that would make his accomplishments all the more impressive," he continued. "I just find it highly unlikely given the circumstances of where the sport was at at that time, how dominant the horse was in the era, and the records it still holds to this day."

When Secretariat died in 1989, a necropsy found that the horse's heart was more than twice the size of a normal horse's heart, according to a 1990 Sports Illustrated story by acclaimed horse racing writer William Nack.

Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky, told Nack that there was no evidence of anything that would've artificially enlarged the horse's heart.

"We were all shocked," Swerczek said. ‘’I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.’’

Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat, died at 95 in 2017. Her children, Kate and John Tweedy, issued a statement to Horse Racing Nation refuting Kelce's comments.

“We, the family of Penny Chenery, strongly protest the grossly inaccurate speculation recently posted by Jason Kelce about Secretariat racing while being ‘juiced,'" their statement read. "Kelce later admitted that he knows nothing about Secretariat and bases his opinions entirely on the fact that Secretariat belonged to an era when drug use in athletes was rampant. The fact is Secretariat was never given performance-enhancing drugs.

"What does explain his unrivaled speed and stamina is well known, if only Kelce had cared to find out before making his comments," their statement continued. "It was the size of his heart — at 22 pounds, over twice the size of the average equine heart. It was not chemically or pathologically enlarged, just a genetic gift of nature that enabled him to run farther and faster than any horse in the last century."