Baffert admits Medina Spirit treated with banned substance
Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert celebrated in the winner's circle after winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. on May 1, 2021. Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Bob Baffert vehemently denied that his horse Medina Spirit was given any illegal substance prior to winning the Kentucky Derby over a week ago, but the trainer suddenly changed his tune.

Baffert issued a statement on Tuesday saying he learned that Medina Spirit was treated with an anti-fungal ointment that contained betamethasone leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The ointment was used once a day up until the race to treat dermatitis.

“Following the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit developed dermatitis on his hind end,” Baffert said, via Jason Frakes of the Louisville Courier Journal. “I had him checked out by my veterinarian who recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax. The veterinary recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to give the horse relief, help heal the dermatitis and prevent it from spreading.

“My barn followed this recommendation and Medina Spirit was treated with Otomax once a day up until the day before the Kentucky Derby. (Monday), I was informed that one of the substances in Otomax is betamethasone. While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results. As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information.”

Betamethasone is anti-inflammatory drug that is legal to use on horses but illegal when found in the blood on race day. Medina Spirit has not yet been disqualified from the Kentucky Derby, as a second positive test known as a “split sample” is required before the initial result is confirmed. Based on Baffert’s new admission, it seems likely that the horse will be disqualified.

The corticosteroid found in Medina Spirit is the same one another Baffert horse, Gamine, tested positive for after winning the Kentucky Oaks last year. Other Baffert horses have also had issues with failed drug tests. Justify reportedly failed a drug test before winning the Triple Crown in 2018, but the inquiry was quietly dropped under the guise that the horse could have eaten contaminated food. Two other Baffert horses tested positive for lidocaine last year, and Baffert complained about confidentiality.

Baffert was widely mocked on Monday for what he said about the Medina Spirit situation in a TV interview.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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