The New York Racing Association (NYRA) didn’t waste time cracking the whip on Bob Baffert after it was revealed that his Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, had tested positive for the use of steroids following the race. The Hall of Fame horse trainer was immediately banned by the organization, the first of several bans he would receive since the early May competition, but Baffert is frothing at the bit and isn’t going to take the decisions lying down. He has sued the NYRA to try to get his name restored, arguing that the organization had no cause to issue the ban.
Medina Spirit Temporarily Out to Pasture
Medina Spirit conquered the Kentucky Derby at the beginning of May, but a standard post-race drug test revealed the presence of a certain steroid, betamethasone. Less than two weeks after the news hit the wires that the colt had tested positive, the NYRA stepped up and issued the Hall of Fame trainer a suspension. It explained at the time that its job was to “maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry” in the state and that it had to “protect the integrity of the sport.” Baffert’s suspension prevents him from entering any races in NYRA-sanctioned events and from occupying stall space at three tracks, the Aqueduct, the Belmont and the Saratoga.
Baffert argues that the NYRA can’t suspend him because the results of the tests are still being verified and that the organization didn’t allow him due process. He also claims the ban is premature because he has never had a horse return a positive test in New York State. However, he has been caught up in doping allegations elsewhere. Baffert calls the suspension, “unconstitutional” and he argues that the NYRA doesn’t have the authority to suspend him. According to his suit, only the New York Gaming Commission has that control. Baffert is also suing the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) for similar reasons.
Baffert Baffled By Bans
Baffert, who was also banned by Churchill Downs Inc for two years, has argued that Medina Spirit was never administered any type of steroids or other drugs and states that the positive test result must have been returned due to the application of a topical cream, Otomax, that is known to contain small amounts of a betamethasone compound. He has contested the results and has requested that blood and urine samples be sent to an independent lab to better determine the source of the steroid. The source is irrelevant, according to Kentucky racing and other officials. The KHRC has a zero-tolerance policy for betamethasone, regardless of how it’s administered, and evidence that it may have come through the use of Otomax doesn’t prove that steroid shots weren’t given, according to one racing expert. The guidelines stipulate that Otomax is acceptable for treating joints and muscles, but can’t be used on the day of a race. Baffert might be successful in getting the bans lifted temporarily, pending the final outcome of the third-party testing, but he’s not likely to walk away without some permanent scars.