Legendary trainer Bob Baffert insisted he is innocent Monday after a failed drug test against Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit left American racing in turmoil.
Medina Spirit may have become only the second Kentucky Derby winner in history to be stripped of his title for doping violations after traces of the steroid betamethasone were found in the horse’s system.
It’s the latest in a series of doping cases that have rocked Baffert’s stable in recent years and leaves the Hall of Fame trainer risking a lengthy ban from the sport if confirmed.
In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Baffert said he has never cheated and said his immediate suspension at Churchill Downs on Sunday made him a victim of a “cancellation culture.”
Baffert told Fox that Medina Spirit was never given betamethasone — which is legal in American racing as long as it is not administered within 14 days of the race — and suggested the horse may have been accidentally or intentionally contaminated with the substance.
“That didn’t happen,” Baffert told the network. “That horse was never treated (with betamethasone). In fact, it’s a legal therapeutic drug and the amount that was in it would have had no effect on the horse anyway.
“But this horse was never treated, and that’s the disturbing part. I never thought I’d have to fight for my reputation and that poor horse’s.”
“We live in a new world now. These horses don’t live in a bubble,” he said. “They’re in the open farm. People are touching them. He’s gone from derby to derby, everybody’s out there touching them.”
Kentucky racing authorities last year changed the threshold for a positive betamethasone test from 10 picograms per milliliter of plasma to 21 picograms per milliliter. A pictograph is one trillionth of a gram.
“There are so many ways these horses can become contaminated and when they test at these really ridiculously low levels – I’ve been saying this for over a year, they’re going to get innocent people in trouble and this is what happened.” Baffert said.
“Bob Baffert is not stupid,” the trainer added. “That’s not a drug I would use on a horse. We don’t use that drug. The horse never had it in him. We have the documentation. We’ll show everything.”
Baffert, meanwhile, said he plans to enter Medina Spirit in this weekend’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, the second leg of horse racing’s prestigious American Triple Crown.
However, it was unclear whether Medina Spirit would be allowed to race at the Maryland Jockey Club. The draw for the race was postponed 24 hours until Tuesday after Sunday’s doping bombshell.
Baffert, meanwhile, criticized the Churchill Downs racetrack for suspending him after the drug test was revealed.
“Churchill Downs came out with this statement and it was pretty harsh,” he said. “We live in a different world. This America is different. This was a kind of abolitionist culture.”