LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs Inc. on Wednesday suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert for two years after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a steroid in two separate post-race drug tests.
Mandaloun, the horse that finished second in the Derby, is now poised to be declared the winner, ESPN reported.
Baffert’s suspension is effective immediately, meaning he will be ineligible to participate in both the 2022 and 2023 derbies, the network reported.
Attorney Clark Brewster, who represents Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan, told The New York Times that a UC Davis laboratory confirmed the presence of betamethasone in the second sample.
Meanwhile, attorney Craig Robertson, who represents Baffert, said the second test showed 25 picograms of the steroid, compared with the 21 picograms detected in the first sample, ESPN reported.
According to the sports news network, even a trace amount of the steroid is prohibited by the event’s organizers.
In a text message to the Times, however, Brewster noted that the UC Davis lab did not test for other compounds that “could prove the trace positive came from an inadvertent and materially inconsequential contamination sourced from a topical ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin lesion on his hip.”
In turn, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has agreed to allow an independent laboratory to test Medina Spirit’s original blood and urine samples for the presence of other compounds, Brewster told the Times.
“The whole basis for listing betamethasone is because it’s injected into a joint, and they want you not to inject the joints too close to the race, so the whole substantive basis is out the window if it’s a salve, and it can be proven scientifically and empirically to be the salve,” Brewster told The Associated Press by phone.
According to ESPN, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission – and not Churchill Downs – will make the final call on whether Medina Spirit is disqualified, but its independent investigation is ongoing.
“Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated,” Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a prepared statement.
:Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility,” Carstanjen stated.
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