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Triple Crown winner Justify failed drug test in 2018: report


2018 Triple Crown winner Justify tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug less than a month before the Kentucky Derby, but was not punished, with the help of the California Horse Racing Board. They ultimately dismissed the case without a hearing and changed the rules around the drug, according to a report from the New York Times on Wednesday.

The drug, scopolamine, is banned because it improves horses’ breathing. The former head drug tester for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission told the Times that the level detected in Justify “has to come from intentional intervention.”

Justify’s April 7 positive test was confirmed by a second lab on May 8, three days after the horse won the Kentucky Derby. Over the next few months, as Justify kept winning, the report makes it clear that the board took a two-pronged strategy to keep the horse and his powerful trainer, Bob Baffert, out of trouble.

The board’s chairman Chuck Winner — a human with a good horse name — has a financial stake in Baffert-trained horses, according to the report.

First, the board dismissed the charge in a closed-door session two months after Justify won the Belmont. (According to the Times, “it decided, with little evidence, that the positive test could have been a result of Justify’s eating contaminated food.”)

Then, in October, it changed the rules on scopolamine. Under the old rules, a positive test would trigger a disqualification, which would have knocked Justify out of the Kentucky Derby. Under the new rules, a positive test just meant a fine and suspension.

The chairman of the , Chuck Winner, owns an interest in horses trained by Baffert