Baffert says ointment used on Medina Spirit could have led to positive test

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- After denying that Medina Spirit was ever administered Betamethasone, Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert now says a prescribed ointment used on the horse could have led to a positive result.

Baffert said that Medina Spirit was prescribed Otomax to treat dermatitis following the Santa Anita Derby and the ointment was used on the horse leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

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But animal rights activists reacted to the admission by calling for firm action against the Hall of Fame trainer.

Baffert released the following statement Tuesday morning.

“On May 8, 2021, I was informed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that Medina Spirit allegedly tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone. On May 9,2021, I held a press conference in which I stated that I intended to thoroughly investigate how this could have happened and that I would be completely transparent throughout the process. I immediately began the investigation, which has resulted in me learning of a possible source for the betamethason, and now, as promised, I want to be forthright about what I have learned.

“Following the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit developed dermatitis on his hind end. 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.

“As I have stated, my investigation is continuing and we do not know for sure if this ointment was the cause of the test results or if the test results are even accurate, as they have yet to be confirmed by the split sample. However, again, I have been told that a finding of a small amount, such as 21 picograms, could be consistent with application of this type of ointment.

“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. 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,” Baffert concluded.

But others suggested it is time for action against the trainer.

Many thanks for your coverage of the Bob Baffert Kentucky Derby doping scandal that broke this weekend. In light of Baffert’s admission of guilt this morning we wanted to provide you with an updated statement on the news. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports on Baffert’s statement here.

Animal Wellness Action worked diligently in leading the charge in the animal protection space on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that was signed into law in December and banned doping in the sport.

“Bob Baffert has conceded that a veterinarian under his charge applied the anti-fungal ointment Otomax to Medina Spirit just before the Kentucky Derby. In response to this admission, Churchill Downs should drop the hammer on Baffert and indefinitely suspend him from racing at its tracks,” said Marty Irby, executive director of the Animal Wellness Action.

“Given his long pattern of doping violations, Baffert should be extraordinarily alert to all substances that go into horses under his control. His horses should get water, hay, and oats in the run-up to race day and nothing else. It’s time for the horse racing industry to have a zero-tolerance policy for drugging violations and put the principles of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in play right away. It’s time to put the welfare of the horse at the center of the enterprise,” Irby added.

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Austin Miller joins ABC 36 Sports Team as a Sports Reporter and Weekend Anchor. Austin is from the Louisville area and graduated from St. Xavier High School in 2008. Austin graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a second concentration in German. While at IU, Austin was a blogger at Kentsterling.com and co-host, producer and engineer for WIUX, the school’s student radio station. Before coming to ABC 36, Austin was a news videographer at WLFI in West Lafayette from 2012-2015. While working with WLFI, Austin had the chance to cover the Purdue Boilermakers. He then accepted a Sports/New Reporter position at Local 4 KSNB-TV in Hastings Nebraska and was eventually promoted to sports full-time as the Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter. While at KSNB-TV, Austin covered the University of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Hastings College. After spending nearly six years away from home, Austin is excited to return to the Bluegrass State to cover the teams he grew up watching. In his spare time, Austin enjoys playing basketball, working out and cooking. If you have any story ideas or would like to say “Hello,” you can reach Austin by email at amiller@wtvq.com or direct message him on Twitter @AustinMillerTV.