Say no to dope? There’s just no hope
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, a 12-1 shot who somehow went wire-to-wire for trainer Bob Baffert’s record seventh Derby victory, tested positive after the race for an overload of the anti-inflammatory betamethasone.
Wasn’t that a great Kentucky Derby 10 days ago?
Coming out of this miserable viral year-plus, those horses thundering around the bend at Churchill Downs seemed to herald better times ahead.
Ha! Fools, we be!
The flowered hats, mint juleps and visions of springtime went to our heads. Of course, the great show was rigged.
What? You think cheating in sport disappeared because of the annoyance of some weird RNA strands?
Nope. Winner Medina Spirit, a 12-1 shot who somehow went wire-to-wire for trainer Bob Baffert’s record seventh Derby victory, tested positive after the race for an overload of the anti-inflammatory betamethasone.
We’re awaiting the results of a second test on the horse, but here’s the beautiful part: If Medina Spirit is confirmed to have been doped up, he will be disqualified as the Derby winner and runner-up Mandaloun will be declared the champ. But — and this is the fun part — bettors who had Medina Spirit to win will get to keep their earnings because this was a parimutuel pool and all the money is way gone, while folks who bet on Mandaloun to win will be out of luck.
This is the equivalent of a dude dealing from the bottom of a card deck and still getting to keep the winnings from his five-aces poker hand. Note: If this were the Wild West, that dude wouldn’t be going out the barroom door vertically.
And you wonder why horse racing basically is considered a den of nefariousness.
Nor is it like Baffert, with that pennant of white hair gleaming atop his head like snow on the roof of a garden shed, unaware of what goes on. According to a New York Times story from November, Baffert-trained horses have failed at least 29 drug tests in his near half-century career.
He, naturally, was totally shocked at the doping news.
‘‘There’s problems in racing,’’ he said. ‘‘But it’s not Bob Baffert.’’
Of course not.
Somebody else must have doped up poor Medina Spirit. Or maybe the horse went to Walgreens himself and filled out a prescription for a sore shoulder or inflamed stifle joint.
We’ve heard great excuses before.
When Baffert’s horse Justify won the Triple Crown in 2018, then tested positive for the drug scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby, the excuse was that jimsonweed got into his oats.
From disqualifying amounts of dextrorphan to lidocaine to scopolamine, Baffert’s horses have seen all the hard-to-pronounce drugs. Regarding the lidocaine found in two Baffert horses — Charlatan and Gamine — last year, the excuse was that a barn worker was wearing a lidocaine patch for his bad back.
One supposes the racehorses licked the guy’s back to help him get to sleep each night in the straw.
This ‘‘Sport of Kings’’ is no different from human athletic doping, except that horses don’t get a say in their drug regimen and are impossible to interview.
I’ll refresh your memory with some of the better doping excuses we’ve heard from human jocks after they’ve been busted:
In 2008, Canadian wheelchair Paralympian Jeff Adams, a six-time world champ, blamed his failed cocaine test on a contaminated catheter. (He was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.)
Track champion LaShawn Merritt said he tested positive for steroids because he was using the penis-enlargement supplement ExtenZe.
In 1998, Czech tennis star Petr Korda said he tested positive for the steroid nandrolone because he ate too much veal. (It was determined he would have to eat 40 calves every day for 20 years to match his steroid level.)
Former world-champion sprinter Tim Montgomery, who went to prison for several years for other crimes, was a doper. When asked by interviewer Bryant Gumbel if the reason he doped was because he was lazy, Montgomery replied, ‘‘Very lazy.’’
Canadian Olympic pole vaulter Shawn Barber said he tested positive for cocaine in 2016 after kissing a new girlfriend too passionately.
Maybe the most solid answer came from Mariusz Pudzianowski, the dominant ‘‘world’s strongest man,’’ back in 2004. When asked when he last had taken anabolic steroids, he answered, ‘‘What time is it now?’’
Listen, it’s possible Baffert had nothing to do with this Derby mess. We’ll await that second test before passing final judgment.
But I’ve gotta tell you that this guy seems slippery as hell to me. If you don’t know what goes on in your own stables, then what do you know about anything?
I just wish Medina Spirit were Mr. Ed, the talking horse, for a day. Oh, the story he could tell.