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Justify a failed drug test before you win the Triple Crown



On June 9, 2018, an altar called Justify burst into the house with full toasts of the capacity crowd to win the 150th Belmont Run and claim the Triple Crown Horse Race, one of the most successful achievements in sports.

It was the perfect end to an incredible journey for a talented horse, his eclectic possession band and his trainer in the Bob Buffert Hall of Fame.

However, only a few people knew the secret that Buffert carried with him in this winner's circle that day: Justify failed a drug test weeks before the first Triple Crown race, the Kentucky Derby. This meant that Justify would not have to participate in the derby if they followed the rules of the sport.

According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, they were not. Instead of a failed drug test prompting rapid disqualification, the California Horse Racing Council took more than a month to confirm the results. Then, instead of filing a public complaint, as usual, the board made a series of behind-the-scenes decisions as it moved to drop the case and ease the penalty for any horse found to be the banned substance that Justify tested positive in the system.

Only a handful of Justify racing officials and people knew about the failed drug test that happened on April 7, 2018, after Justify won the Santa Anita derby. He tested positive for the drug scopolamine, a banned substance that veterinarians say could improve productivity, especially in the amount found in the horse.

He was not defeated at the time, but he was still needed to finish first or second in the Santa Anita derby to qualify for the Kentucky derby on May 5. While the donkey wins in Santa Anita, a failed drug test will mean disqualification and withdrawal of both the prize and the Kentucky derby come with a win.

However, none of this happened.

T best results, emails and internal memorandums in the justification case show California regulators waited nearly three weeks while the Curtuki Derby was only nine days away to inform Buffert that he was his favorite in Derby failed the doping test.

Four months later – and more than two months after Lovetif, Buffert, and horse owners celebrated their victory at the Triple Crown in New York – the council closed its investigation during a closed-door executive session. He decided, with little evidence, that a positive test could be the result of eating Dougie's contaminated food. The council voted unanimously to end the case. In October, she changed the sentence for scopolamine violations to a lesser fine and a possible suspension.

Buffer did not respond to numerous attempts to contact him for this article.

Rick Bedeker, executive director of the California Horse Racing Council, acknowledged that this was a sensitive case because of his time. He says regulators are moving cautiously because scopolamine can be found in wildflower weeds that can grow wildly where there is fertilizer and is inadvertently mixed in feed, and that "environmental pollution environment "is often used as a protection.

"One day we might end up in the High Court," he said .

"There was no way we could produce an investigation report before the Kentucky derby," he added. "This is impossible. Well, this is not impossible, for us it would be careless and reckless to tell an investigator what it usually takes you two months to complete in five days, eight days.

Documents reviewed by The Times, show no evidence of pressure or tampering by Justify owners, but horse racing is uniquely insular.

Cases of scopolamine have led to disqualifications of reimbursement of purses, fines and suspension over the decades.

p. Rick Sams, who runs the drug lab for the Kentucky Equestrian Commission from 2011 to 2018, stated that scopolamine can act as a bronchodilator to clear the horse's airways and optimize heart rate. the horse, making the horse more efficient. He said the amount of scopolamine found in Justify – 300 nanograms per milliliter – was excessive, and suggested the drug was intended to increase efficiency.

"I think it must come from deliberate intervention," he said.

Baffert and other trainers in California were well aware that scopolamine is a banned substance and that it can sometimes be found in gimmick weeds, although the strong odor and unpleasant taste of the plant make it unattractive. In November 2016, Dr. Rick Arthur, medical director of the racing board, warned horsemen to be on the lookout for Jimson weed in their food and hay, saying that a positive drug test was "completely avoided" .

"The likelihood of our current procedures for obtaining a positive result from environmental pollution is quite low," says Dr. Arthur at the time.

On April 20, two days after learning of Execufy's positive test, Dr. Arthur wrote in an email circulated to Baedeker, the council's executive director, his attorneys and his interim chief investigator that the case would be "treated differently from normally ." He requested further testing and review of the data.

In an interview, Bedeker, speaking on behalf of Dr. Arthur, stated that he believed that Dr. Arthur meant that the investigation should be thorough.

Other cases of doping are moving fast through the California bureaucracy. In March, a trainer officer, William Morey, was caught observing giving a banned drug to a horse. Laboratory tests were conducted, the investigation was completed and a complaint was filed and made public 28 days later.

On the morning of April 26, four days before Engine was sent to Louisville, Kiev, for the Kentucky derby, Buffert received notice that Justify had been tested positive for scopolamine. Baffert, as he was entitled, requested that another sample of this test be sent to an approved independent laboratory.

Submitted on May 1, four days before the derby, and this lab confirms the result on May 8. (Until then, Lustifi won the derby, the first Triple Crown match.) That same day Bedeker informed the board that Argustiff tested positive for scopolamine.

"The CHRB Investigation Division will file a complaint and a hearing will be scheduled," he said in a memorandum received by The Times.

No one has ever lodged an appeal and the hearing has never taken place.

Instead, on August 23, 2018, more than four months after the failed test, Bedeker stated that he submitted the Rationale case directly to the California Equestrian Board Commissioners in a private executive session, a step he never he did not undertake during his term of five and a half years. The board voted unanimously not to continue the case against Baffert .

Without a formal complaint, Badeker stated that state law prohibited him from discussing in detail evidence of environmental pollution. In writing, Badeker said a handful of other horses may have been infected, but offered little supporting evidence.

The Statutes of California do not prohibit the appointment of active horse owners to the regulatory board that oversees the sport. Beyond the relationship between the owner and the coach of the chairman with Baffert, the board's vice chairman, Madeline Auerbach, and another commissioner, Denis Alfieri, are coaches and jockeys in California.

Joe Goreec, former chairman of the Association of Race Commissioners The International Trade Group of Industry Commissioners, said the system is doomed to fail in California and other states where the Regulations work with the people who are there for the police.

"Minimum bans must exclude active horse owners, coaches, ranchers and jockeys, or anyone else who makes a profit from business, on commission," said Gorayets, who was executive director of the Indiana Equestrian Commission. "Commissioners must be barred from betting in the country in which they serve."

In the months that followed the decision to dismiss Justify, the race committee moved to to reduce the penalty for scopolamine violations from disqualification and withdrawal

Badeker said regulators were considering moving to a lower standard. He said that the plan was to appeal the lower classification if the matter came up before the hearing .

"Our employees have failed to make these changes to the board – we acknowledge that," he said.

Baffert has undergone previous regulatory procedures in California

In 2013, after seven horses of his care had died over a period of 16 months, he was the subject of a report on board that revealed that he had each a horse in his stable thyroid hormone without checking if any of them have thyroid problems.

Buffert told the researchers that he believed the drug would help "gain" his horses, although the drug was usually associated with weight loss. In this case, no evidence was found in the council report "that C.H.R.B. rules or regulations have been violated. "

In r etude, Excuse your partners as often as three times a day. Coolmore, the international breeding concern that bought Justify breeding rights, receives as much as $ 150,000 for mating, or $ 450,000 a day for a five-month breeding season. This means that Coolmore has already paid back its $ 60 million investment.

Justify is currently in Australia. The owners there are staged mares hoping to get what must be the perfect seed from the perfect racehorse.


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