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Churchill Downs Suspends Bob Baffert After Medina Spirit Tests Positive For Betamethasone

 It’s no secret that doping is a major issue in the world of horse racing, but Sunday’s announcement rocked the sports world.

On Sunday morning, legendary trainer Bob Baffert announced that his 2021 Kentucky Derby-winning horse, Medina Spirit, tested positive for having over double the legal limit of the anti-inflammatory betamethasone.

“Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone. So, I cannot believe that I’m here before you guys, I never thought I’d be here. Yesterday I got the biggest gut-punch in racing for something I didn’t do. It’s disturbing,” Baffert told reporters on Sunday. “It’s an injustice to the horse.”

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know everybody’s not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong,” Baffert continued. “Why is it happening to me? There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”

Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs while the investigation into the positive test takes place.

It is our understanding that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample indicated a violation of the Commonwealth of Kenthucky’s equine medication protocols. The connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample and we understand they intend to do so. To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.

Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate. Churchill Downs will not tolerate it. Given the seriousness of the alleged offense, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps.

This is not the first time that a Baffert-trained horse has tested positive for the banned substance. His horse Gamine tested positive for the substance after the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.

According to The Athletic, “Betamethasone is a Class C drug in Kentucky that is legal to use in training but is supposed to be administered no later than 14 days prior to the race. It’s a therapeutic drug often administered for joint pain in horses. Medina Spirit’s stablemate Gamine tested positive for the drug after the Kentucky Oaks last fall, although Baffert said it had been given to her 18 days days prior to the race. Baffert said Medina Spirit has never been treated with the drug.”

Baffert’s horses have tested positive for other banned substances in the past. Justify, the 2019 Triple Crown winner, tested positive for scopolamine after the 2018 Santa Anita Derby, but the positive test was attributed to contaminated feed and was dismissed.

If Medina Spirit is indeed disqualified, it will be only the third time a winning horse has been disqualified from the Kentucky Derby in the 147-year history of the race. Dancer’s Image was disqualified in 1968 for a banned substance, and Maximum Security was disqualified in 2019 after it was found that the horse interfered with other horses as the Kentucky Derby came down the home stretch.

Medina Spirit should be able to run in next weekend’s Preakness, as the appeal process is not a quick one. Baffert said on Sunday that a DNA sample should be taken, and he has asked the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to pull hairs from Medina Spirit to confirm the existence of betamethasone.

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