Bob Baffert, welcome to the Doping Corridor of Infamy.
You are becoming a member of a really achieved group, the creme de la creme of chemically enhanced miscreants.
Over there’s the East German Olympic crew. Proper subsequent to them, you may discover Ben Johnson and Marion Jones. That huge man is Mark McGwire. And, in fact, the shamelessly corrupt Lance Armstrong wants no introduction.
Certain, you did not really inject the illicit substance into your personal physique, like the remainder of the inductees, however you may match proper in.
Yep, that is Baffert’s legacy — not all these nice horses he educated.
Even when one in all Baffert’s myriad excuses for a constructive drug take a look at on the Kentucky Derby one way or the other passes muster — to listen to him inform it, he is the harmless sufferer of A) cancel tradition pervading the nation, B) a groom who relieved himself within the barn, C) a veterinarian who prescribed the drug in query, or D) the canine ate his homework, we presume — there isn’t any probability of him getting his popularity again.
That is the best way it ought to be.
For much too lengthy Baffert has largely gotten a free go for his seemingly magic contact with equines whereas everybody regarded the opposite means at his increasing checklist of doping violations.
In simply the previous 12 months, he is been cited 5 instances. The New York Occasions discovered a way more sinister file — 29 instances spanning greater than 4 many years.
In every other athletic pursuit, Baffert would have lengthy since been banned.
However horse racing, in a determined bid to remain related and create stars who may entice new followers to the game of kings, has handled the white-haired coach’s doubtful strategies with repeated slaps on the wrist.
Perhaps a superb, or a short suspension from the observe the place the offense occurred.
In some ways, horse racing has taken a web page from the playbook of Main League Baseball, which regarded the opposite means whereas McGwire and others bulked up on steroids to gas a homer-crazed revival of the nationwide pastime within the wake of a crippling strike that worn out the 1994 World Sequence.
Baseball ultimately got here to its senses, shunning those that cheated their approach to inconceivable accomplishments.
Now, it is time for horse racing to do the identical.
The game that already faces staunch criticism from animal-rights activists and waning curiosity from gamblers and informal followers obtained one other big blow to its picture when Baffert-trained Medina Spirit examined constructive for the steroid betamethasone after an upset victory in horse racing’s premier occasion, the Kentucky Derby.
Identical to that, the inspiring story of a $1,000 yearling who defied the percentages as a 12-1 underdog now appears means too good to be true.
And, whereas it is probably not truthful, it is solely pure to forged a suspicious eye towards Baffert’s two best horses, American Pharoah and Justify, who captured the Triple Crown a mere three years aside — after a 37-year drought with none thoroughbred sweeping the game’s largest races.
Amazingly, Medina Spirit continues to be being allowed to compete within the second leg of the Triple Crown, Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, albeit with enhanced testing measures earlier than the race.
Not less than Baffert had the nice sense to steer clear of Pimlico.
Think about what a buzz-kill it will be if Medina Spirit crosses the road first once more, all whereas ready for officers to finish their follow-up testing of his Kentucky Derby pattern to find out if he ought to be disqualified from the Run for the Roses.
Regardless of the end result, there’s a gloomy cloud hanging over the game.
A brand new regulation that can put the U.S. Anti-Doping Company — you already know, the parents who introduced down Armstrong — in command of horse racing’s battle towards illicit drug use is an enormous step in the proper path. It would convey some order to a byzantine maze of guidelines and streamline the testing course of, nevertheless it would not go into impact till the summer time of 2022.
Even that isn’t sufficient.
The game must be keen to rid itself of those that violate the principles, particularly these akin to Baffert who’ve accomplished it over and over. Regardless of the circumstances, the coach is liable for banned medicine that wind up in a horse’s techniques. They need to be punished accordingly with a prolonged, nationwide suspension for first offenses and a lifetime ban if caught a second time.
Till guidelines with actual chunk are put in place, we’ll should be content material with Baffert being proper the place he belongs.
The Doping Corridor of Infamy.
Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness entrant Medina Spirit is bathed after a exercise forward of the Preakness Stakes forward of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Wednesday, Might 12, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Picture/Julio Cortez)
Train rider Humberto Gomez, prime left, takes Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness entrant Medina Spirit to the observe for a coaching session forward of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Wednesday, Might 12, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Picture/Julio Cortez)
Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness entrant Medina Spirit is bathed after a exercise forward of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race at Pimlico Race Course, Wednesday, Might 12, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Picture/Julio Cortez)