(Reuters) - Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Thursday denied intentionally administering the banned drug scopolamine to Triple Crown-winning horse Justify in 2018, saying a positive test had been a result of "environmental contamination."
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Justify had tested positive to the substance after winning the Santa Anita Derby in California, less than a month before the start of the Triple Crown.
"I unequivocally reject any implication that Scopolamine was ever intentionally administered to Justify, or any of my horses," Baffert wrote on Twitter.
"Test results indicating trace amounts of the drug were undoubtedly the result of environmental contamination caused by the presence of Jimson Weed in feed, a naturally growing substance in areas where hay and straw are produced in California.
"In addition, I had no input into, or influence on, the decisions made by the California Horse Racing Board."
Baffert said Justify had passed drug tests at each of the Triple Crown races that the horse had won -- the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes in Maryland and Belmont Stakes in New York.
The Kentucky and Maryland racing bodies confirmed on Thursday that Justify had passed drug tests at their 2018 Triple Crown races.
Scopolamine, also known as hyoscine, is banned because it can improve horses' breathing and heart-rate.
The New York Times said the failed drug test would normally have meant Justify's disqualification and forfeiture of entry into the Kentucky Derby.
Instead, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results and moved to drop the case while lightening the penalty for any horse found to test positive to the same substance, the report said.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)