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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Medina Spirit, the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, failed a drug test after the race, putting his victory — and horse racing's integrity — in jeopardy.

Why it matters: Medina Spirit is Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's fifth horse known to have failed a drug test in just over a year.

Details: The drug found in the horse's system was betamethasone, a steroid used to reduce pain and swelling. These kind of drugs can mask injuries, often leading to injuries or death.

What they're saying: Churchill Downs on Sunday suspended Baffert, who insisted that Medina Spirit had not been treated with the drug.

  • "I don't feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged," said Baffert. "These are pretty serious accusations here, but we're going to get to the bottom of it and find out. We know we didn't do it.”
  • He said he plans to run Medina Spirit at Saturday's Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
  • Preakness officials said they'll make a decision about the horse's eligibility after reviewing the facts.
Bob Baffert after winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The state of play: Medina Spirit can't be disqualified until a second sample, collected at the same time as the first, confirms the result. Those results are expected soon, per NYT.

  • If the positive test is confirmed, Baffert can appeal. If he loses, the runner-up, Mandaloun, will be declared the winner.
  • Medina Spirit would then be stripped of his title and the $1.8 million winning purse, joining Dancer's Image (1968) as the only Derby winners to receive drug-related disqualifications.

The big picture: This news comes as horse racing, awash in doping scandals, prepares to implement the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.

  • The landmark legislation will establish an independent organization to regulate medication policy, which is currently handled differently by each state.
  • It's set to take effect next July, and would see the Federal Trade Commission write rules and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency enforce penalties.

The last word, via SI's Pat Forde (subscription):

"Ultimately, this very much seems like the same sad song, different verse, when it comes to drug testing and sports. The denials are always vigorous. They are often fanciful. They are rarely compelling."
"Nobody hits 73 home runs in a season without assistance. Nobody wins five straight Tours de France. And in a sport like horse racing ... maybe it's simply too much to expect a guy to win a record seven Derbies between 1997–2021 without beating other cheaters at their own game."

Go deeper

May 9, 2021 - Sports

Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit fails drug test

Medina Spirit at the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Medina Spirit, the thoroughbred that won this year's Kentucky Derby race, failed a post-race drug test, trainer Bob Baffert announced at a press conference Sunday, per AP.

Why it matters: Baffert is a "Hall of Fame" horse trainer, but five of his horses have fail drug tests in about the past year, while the sport's leaders have vowed to crack down on horse doping, per AP.

Beauty giant Coty Cosmetics looking to sell its own branded products

Coty Cosmetics CEO Sue Nabi. Photo: Axios on HBO

Coty Cosmetics CEO Sue Nabi tells Axios the beauty giant will “probably” introduce Coty-branded products one day.

Why it matters: Coty produces some of the world’s most popular fragrances, skin care products and color cosmetics on behalf of other well-known brands, but has shied away from producing its own branded products.

26 mins ago - Sports

NFL to end race-based testing in concussion settlements

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The National Football League on Wednesday reached an agreement with former players to end the controversial practice of race-based adjustments in dementia testing, AP reports.

Why it matters: The deal, which must still be approved by a judge, comes amid a broader discussion of racial inequities in health care.