Baffert says anti-fungal medication might have caused doping

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Bob Baffert, trainer of doping-hit Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, said Tuesday the horse was given an anti-fungal medication that might have caused the positive test that has jeopardized the victory.

In a statement released by Baffert's lawyer and reported by US media, the famed trainer said his staff treated the colt with the ointment Otomax, which Baffert said he learned Monday includes the steroid betamethasone.

Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone in a post-race sample, which is banned within two weeks of a race, meaning any amount in a race sample is a violation.

A second test from the sample must be positive as well to invalidate Medina Spirit's Derby victory and make runner-up Mandaloun the winner of the May 1 US flat racing classic at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Baffert, who spent the past two days saying the horse was never treated with betamethasone, said the ointment -- given to Medina Spirit once a day until the eve of the Derby -- could have inadvertently been the source of the banned substance.

"Yesterday, I was informed that one of the substances in Otomax is betamethasone," Baffert said.

"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.

"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."

Baffert said he had no idea trace amounts of the banned substance were in the ointment.

"This has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage," Baffert said.

Medina Spirit has been transported to Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland, ahead of Saturday's running of the Preakness, the second leg of the US Triple Crown, with the treble concluding at next month's Belmont Stakes in New York.

Baffert said he will continue to appeal to Kentucky racing officials, saying such small amounts of the substance would not have offered a competitive advantage.

"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," Baffert said. "Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will continue to fight for him."

A series of doping cases involving several champion horses trained by Baffert over the years have nagged the Hall of Fame trainer, with the latest possibly the most damaging.

Churchill Downs banned Baffert from entering horses at the racetrack until the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission finishes an investigation into the situation.

- Vet suggested ointment -

Baffert said his own probe into the matter revealed that the ointment, used to treat dermatitis, which Medina Spirit developed on his hind end after a victory in the Santa Anita Derby.

"I had him checked out by my veterinarian, who recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax," Baffert said. "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."

Baffert has long complained about the small levels of a substance needed to declare a positive test, saying it opened the risk of contamination.

"Horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse's system."