LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Medina Spirit, the 2021 Kentucky Derby-winning horse trained by Bob Baffert, tested positive for a drug called betamethasone.
It is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that is used to treat horses for inflammation of joints, tendons and ligaments, as well as some skin inflammation.
Veterinarians like Dr. Mary Scollay of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium said the drug is a useful and beneficial treatment for equines. However, Kentucky law prohibits the drug from being administered within 14 days of a race.
The regulation is in place so that veterinarians can properly assess whether or not a horse can race.
"If a medication is onboard that obscures our ability to see those symptoms, that puts us in a position where we could make an ill-informed decision about whether or not to race a horse," Scollay said.
The law says a horse can have no detectable traces of betamethasone in its system following a race. Post-race test results found 21 picograms of the drug in Medina Spirit's sample.
A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.
"It's like a salt grain in an Olympic-sized pool, and he had 21 picograms, which has no effect at all," Baffert said in an interview on Fox News.
Despite Baffert's claim, Scollay said that measurement is only that of the blood sample. She said the drug isn't considered a performance-enhancing drug, but it could allow a horse to race when it otherwise shouldn't.
"A horse that is uncomfortable that receives corticosteroids and is more comfortable is likely to run a better race than he otherwise would have," she said. "But in the traditional since of performance enhancing drugs, I would say no. it doesn't meet those criteria."
Vets said there are no plans to ban the useful drug from racing but note that the regulation of it is increasingly important.
"What the regulators are saying is treat the horse, recover the horse and bring it back to the races whenever it is healthy and well," Scollay said .
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said betamethasone is a Class C drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Based on regulations, Baffert could face a suspension of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $5,000.
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