Baffert Denies Allegations Triple Crown Winner Was Intentionally Given PED

Bob Baffert (left, with sunglasses) celebrating the Kentucky Derby victory of his horse, Justify, at Churchill Downs in May 2018.
Photo courtesy Churchill Downs / Coady Photography
Bob Baffert (left, with sunglasses) celebrating the Kentucky Derby victory of his horse, Justify, at Churchill Downs in May 2018.

Trainer Bob Baffert of La Cañada Flintridge recently denied explosive allegations made in a New York Times story that his horse Justify, who became a Triple Crown champion last year, was intentionally given a performance-enhancing drug called scopolamine.
Baffert’s statement, via Twitter through Justify owner WinStar Farm, was made on Sept. 12. Justify won the Triple Crown in June 2018 and was the 13th horse in the sport’s history to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
“I unequivocally reject any implication that scopolamine was ever intentionally administered to Justify, or any of my horses. 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.”
Justify, a chestnut colt, was the second horse Baffert had trained to win the Triple Crown, after American Pharoah in 2015. American Pharoah’s achievement ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought. Baffert is only the second trainer to claim the Triple Crown twice.
According to the Times article published on Sept. 11, Justify failed a drug test on April 7, 2018, after it won the Santa Anita Derby. The horse tested positive for scopolamine, a banned drug that veterinarians have said can enhance performance, “especially in the amount that was found in the horse,” the article said. The failed test would have meant a disqualification and forfeiture of prize money and the colt’s entry into the Kentucky Derby, but California regulators waited almost three weeks to notify Baffert.
The notification was made April 26, four days before Justify was to head to the Kentucky Derby, and Baffert asked for another sample from the test to be sent to an approved independent lab, according to the Times. Baffert’s request, which was his right, was granted and the sample was sent on May 1, four days before the Derby, the newspaper said. When the laboratory confirmed the same result on May 8, Justify had won the Derby. The executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, Rick Baedeker, notified board members of the failed test in a memorandum obtained by the Times, and said that “the CHRB investigations unit will issue a complaint and a hearing will be scheduled.”
No complaint or hearing occurred. Baedeker presented the Justify case directly to commissioners of the CHRB on Aug. 23, 2018, in a private executive session, according to the Times. The board voted not to proceed with the case against Baffert.
Baffert said in his statement he had “no input into, or influence on” decisions made by the CHRB.
After the Santa Anita Derby, Justify raced in three separate jurisdictions — Kentucky, Maryland and New York — during his Triple Crown run and passed all drug tests, according to the statement.
“I call on the relevant testing agencies in those jurisdictions to immediately release information related to Justify’s test results,” Baffert said.
The trainer ended his statement by saying Justify is one of the “finest horses I’ve had the privilege of training and by any standard is one of the greatest of all time. I am proud to stand by his record, and my own.”
Baffert’s attorney, W. Craig Robertson III, issued a separate letter to the author of the Times article to “set the record straight.” The letter said there was “never any intentional administration of scopolamine to Justify,” “any insinuation in your article otherwise is not only defamatory, but it also defies logic and common sense” and “there is no doubt that, with regard to Justify, the alleged positive was the result of environmental contamination from hay or straw.”
He added that the decision to not pursue the matter “was made solely by the CHRB” and that Baffert was not involved in the process.
Messages left with the CHRB last week and this week were unreturned by The Outlook’s deadline.

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