Bob Baffert admits he treated Medina Spirit with ointment that contained betamethasone

·3-min read

It looks like "cancel culture" didn't cause Medina Spirit's positive test for betamethasone after all. It may have been trainer Bob Baffert himself. 

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Baffert admitted to treating Medina Spirit with an ointment that contained betamethasone before he won the Kentucky Derby. Trainers are required to stop administering betamethasone 14 days before a race, but Baffert said that Medina Spirit was given the ointment up until the day before the Derby.

“Following the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit developed dermatitis on his hind end,” Baffert wrote in a prepared statement via the Louisville Courier Journal. “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."

If a second test confirms the presence of betamethasone, Baffert and Medina Spirit will be disqualified and stripped of their Derby win.

Major departure from Monday's claims

Baffert's statement on Tuesday is a total about-face from the comments he made on Fox News just 24 hours earlier. In an interview on Monday, Baffert claimed that he never uses betamethasone, and had never given Medina Spirit betamethasone. Then he blamed the positive test and his suspension from Churchill Downs on "cancel culture."

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That was likely the first time in history a horse was supposedly a victim of "cancel culture." Baffert admitting that he'd given Medina Spirit an ointment with betamethasone marked another historical moment: the first time a trainer tried to cancel their own horse.  

Baffert not admitting defeat

Baffert may have admitted to administering the ointment, but he's not admitting defeat. Medina Spirit's Derby win won't be invalidated unless a second, more extensive test (known as a split sample) comes back positive. Even though the ointment could have caused the positive, Baffert is continuing his investigation. 

“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.”

We may not know the results of the test for weeks, so until then only one thing is certain: After wasting so much breath blaming "cancel culture" on Medina Spirit's positive test, Baffert owes "cancel culture" an apology. 

Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, stands near the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. April 28, 2021. Picture taken April 28, 2021.  REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Bob Baffert may have caused Medina Spirit's positive drug test with an ointment. (REUTERS/Bryan Woolston)

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