Hay is for horses, but it turns out not to be the likely reason Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance.
After previously insisting that Medina Spirit had not been treated with betamethasone — the anti-inflammatory medication the horse tested positive for after winning the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown on May 1 — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert revealed the probable cause of the failed test.
In a statement released Tuesday by his attorney, Baffert acknowledged that Medina Spirit had been treated for dermatitis during the week leading up to the Derby with the anti-fungal ointment Otomax, which he claimed to be unaware contained betamethasone until he was informed on Monday.
“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,” Baffert said in the statement.
In various media appearances on Monday, the 68-year-old Baffert had insisted that Medina Spirit had “never” been treated with betamethasone. He even floated the theory that the positive test might have stemmed from Medina Spirit eating hay in a stall ahead of the Kentucky Derby that had been urinated on by a groom who had ingested cough medication.
Medina Spirit arrived in Baltimore on Monday, although Baffert has yet to be informed if the horse will be permitted to run in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
“I intend to continue to investigate and I will continue to be transparent. In the meantime, I want to reiterate two points I made when this matter initially came to light,” Baffert said. “First, I had no knowledge of how betamethasone could have possibly found its way into Medina Spirit (until now) and this has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage.
“Second, 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. Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have had no effect on the outcome of the race. Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will continue to fight for him.”
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