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Attorney: Test proves Medina Spirit wasn’t injected with banned drug

The representative of trainer Bob Baffert says the result shows that a steroid found in the Kentucky Derby winner’s system came from an ointment.
Trainer Bob Baffert raises the trophy after winning the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit at Churchill Downs on May 1. Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after winning and is facing disqualification. Urine testing of Medina Spirit has shown that the steroid came from a topical ointment and not an injection, Baffert's attorney said Friday.
Trainer Bob Baffert raises the trophy after winning the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit at Churchill Downs on May 1. Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after winning and is facing disqualification. Urine testing of Medina Spirit has shown that the steroid came from a topical ointment and not an injection, Baffert's attorney said Friday. [ ANDY LYONS | Getty Images North America ]
Published Dec. 4, 2021

Urine testing of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has shown that a steroid present in the colt’s system came from a topical ointment and not an injection, an attorney for trainer Bob Baffert said Friday.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after winning the May 1 race and is facing disqualification. Baffert had said an ointment used to treat the colt for a skin condition daily up until the Derby included the substance. Betamethasone is a legal substance, but it is not allowed on race day in Kentucky, Maryland and New York, home to the Triple Crown series.

Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney, said that testing of the split sample was completed by a lab in New York.

“It has now been scientifically proven that what Bob Baffert said from the beginning was true. Medina Spirit was never injected with betamethasone and the findings following the Kentucky Derby were solely the result of the horse being treated for a skin condition by way of a topical ointment, all at the direction of Medina Spirit’s veterinarian,” Robertson said in an email.

Robertson said the betamethasone in an injection is betamethasone acetate, and the betamethasone in the topical ointment is betamethasone valerate. He said Kentucky’s racing rules regulate only betamethasone acetate.

Robertson said the New York lab’s testing confirmed both the presence of betamethasone valerate and the absence of betamethasone acetate.

“This should definitively resolve the matter in Kentucky and Medina Spirit should remain the official winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby,” Robertson said.

An attorney for Medina Spirit’s owner, Amr Zedan, confirmed the results of the split-sample testing by George Maylin, director of the New York Drug Testing & Research Program.

Still to be decided is if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will determine that the test proving the drug was given via ointment and not injection could create enough doubt to get Medina Spirit’s positive test tossed out.

Trainers are held responsible for post-race drug findings.

In the wake of Medina Spirit’s failed test, Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs and barred from entering horses in the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies. He also was banned by the New York Racing Association from entering horses at its Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct tracks.

Medina Spirit finished third in the Preakness after the colt was subjected to three rounds of prerace testing to be able to compete. The colt most recently finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last month.

Baffert has had five violations involving impermissible levels of medication in his horses over the past 13 months.

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