Sports Opinion: Bob Baffert needs new strategy after betamethasone claims backfire
Kentucky Derby trainers got $7.4M combined in PPP money during COVID-19 pandemic
With the Kentucky Derby set for Saturday, an analysis of the government's Paycheck Protection Program shows how heavily racing landed on the program.But as the nation's top trainers take center stage at Churchill Downs, it's in stark contrast to 12 months earlier when racing's most prominent figures were taking full advantage of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Video: Trainer says ointment applied to Medina Spirit contained steroid (CBS News)
First, Bob Baffert said it didn’t happen. Now, he says it doesn’t matter. He is wrong on both counts.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s efforts to explain away theof Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit hit a significant snag Tuesday when he was .
The medication Baffert insisted had never been administered to Medina Spirit turned out to have been part of the colt’s daily treatment through an ointment called Otomax. Thus Baffert’s self-pitying suspicions of skulduggery and his misappropriatednow look just as silly as they sounded upon escaping his lips.
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This. But instead of apologizing for his unfounded insinuations and unearned martyr complex, Baffert has chosen to resume his attack on testing thresholds he regards as unreasonable.
“Horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse’s system at the picogram (which is a trillionth of a gram) level,” Baffert said in a prepared statement. “Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have no effect on the outcome of the race.”
Plan A: Deny. Plan B: Trivialize.
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tests positive for anti-inflammatory drug, Bob Baffert calls it 'biggest gut punch in racing'
Trainer Bob Baffert told reporters the horse has never been treated with that drug and has promised an investigation.Baffert disputed the positive test result of 21 picograms, saying Medina Spirit “has never been treated with betamethasone,” which is an anti-inflammatory drug.
“Now they’re going to have to go after the rule,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. “. . .They’re going to have to argue that the concentration that resulted from the topical exposure was irrelevant to the horse’s performance and should therefore be dismissed.’’
Whether the 21 picograms of betamethasone detected in Medina Spirit’s blood sample could have made any difference in the outcome of the Derby is an interesting question, but ultimately irrelevant to the disqualification decision. Kentucky regulations call for a mandatory disqualification and loss of purse if any verifiable amount of betamethasone is found in post-race testing and confirmed by a split sample.
It doesn’t matter how it got there. It doesn’t matter if the amount is infinitesimal. It doesn’t matter whether it was enough to enhance performance or mask pain. All that matters to racing regulators is that the trainer was sufficiently sloppy to allow a Class C drug to be administered close enough to competition that it could not clear the horse’s system. (By Baffert’s own admission, Medina Spirit was treated with Otomax until the day before the Derby.)
Opinion: As excuses for Bob Baffert mount, he doesn't get benefit of the doubt after Medina Spirit's positive test
Bob Baffert is still a seven-time Kentucky Derby winner trainer with a big asterisk next to his latest triumph, a trend that has become common.Bob Baffert is the only person involved in the sport at any level who is likely to be stopped for an autograph or picture away from a racetrack, the product of his ubiquitous presence on television during the Triple Crown and his unmistakeable flop of white hair on top of a head whose eyes are constantly covered by sunglasses.
If he didn’t know Otomax contains betamethasone, that’s on him. If he seeks leniency, a record that includes five drug violations since May, 2020 argues against it. If he expects the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to amend its regulations to accommodate Medina Spirit’s Run for the Roses, he should consider its precedent and its potential liability.
The Derby’s previous drug disqualification took place in 1968, when. That case was litigated for nearly four years before the Kentucky Supreme Court validated the victory of Forward Pass.
Not until 1974 did the Kentucky commission drop its ban on phenylbutazone. If it were to eventually soften its stance on betamethasone, though, it would surely not do so retroactively. To rewrite the rules for Baffert’s benefit would only invite more litigation and deserved derision.
Attorney Craig Robertson can be counted on to turn over every conceivable rock on behalf of his famous client, and the Lexington lawyer should not be underestimated. Robertson found enough procedural flaws in the handling of samples drawn from Baffert’s horses to convince the Arkansas Racing Commission last month to rescind a suspension for a pair of drug violations detected at Oaklawn in 2020.
Trump Trashes 'Junky' Kentucky Derby Winner Over Failed Drug Test
"This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country," grumbles the former president Donald Trump will connect any bit of news to his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against him…even a failed drug test for the horse that won the Kentucky Derby. On Sunday, news broke that Medina Spirit, which won the Derby last weekend, failed a postrace drug test and now risks becoming only the third winner in the 147-year history of the famed horse race to be disqualified, pending a second test and potential appeal from trainer Bob Baffert.
Still, should Medina Spirit’s split sample confirm the findings of the first test — as nearly all split samples do — Baffert’s best strategy might be to claim mitigating circumstances. Neither ignorance nor carelessness make for much of an excuse, but they sure beat denying what turns out to be true.
Follow Tim Sullivan on Twitter: @TimSullivan714
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal:
Medina Spirit passes drug tests, cleared to run in Preakness .
BALTIMORE (AP) — Medina Spirit has passed three rounds of prerace drug testing and been cleared to run in the Preakness on Saturday. Maryland racing officials said Friday tests on the Kentucky Derby winner and fellow Bob Baffert-trained Concert Tour came back with nothing that would cause either to be scratched from the second leg of the Triple Crown. Baffert’s camp agreed to rigorous testing and monitoring of his horses as a condition of entry to the Preakness, after Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone in post-Derby testing.