One of our researchers came across this story on Bob Baffert from 20 years ago — almost to the day — and look, oh look, what he was up to.
It comes from the New York Post, dated June 20, 2001. Ed Fountaine writes:
Trainer Bob Baffert, who is appealing the 60-day suspension handed down Sunday by the California stewards a year after one of his horse’s urine tested positive for a trace of morphine, said yesterday the positive – measured at 73 nanograms, which his attorney Neil Pappiano compared to “1/100th of one poppy seed on a bagel” – almost certainly resulted from hay contaminated by wild-growing poppies.
“I’m sure it came from the feed,” Baffert said. “We have photos of poppy fields growing right in with the hay. I never thought anything like this could happen. You’re not safe. It could happen to anyone.”
Hmmm. We wonder if Neil Pappiano may have sewn the seed for yet another poppy related angle/excuse. Never mind that for now. Check out his over-the-top response (2nd paragraph). The article continues:
He believes the California Horse Racing Board, which recommended the suspension, is harming the sport by enforcing a “zero-tolerance” policy that punishes horsemen for minute levels of drugs, discovered through ultra-sophisticated testing procedures that don’t allow for incidental contamination.
“We thought if they were smart, they’d dismiss it,” Baffert said. “Instead, they hit me (with the suspension) on Father’s Day, when I was down with my dad and my mother. (The authorities) didn’t even tell us. I only found out when some reporters called. It was like Pearl Harbor.
The bagel did it
Baffert stated that his employees often have bakery goods around the barn that may contain poppy seeds, which could cause a positive reading for morphine if ingested by a horse.
Kollias-Baker* said if a horse ate a gram, or tablespoon, of poppy seeds, it most likely would test positive for morphine for up to 24 hours. In 1996, [the late Trainer Bobby] Frankel argued successfully that a positive test could have been caused by poppy-seed bagels being around the barn. The charge was dropped.*Cynthia Kollias-Baker, a veterinary pharmacologist at the state’s other drug-testing lab at UC Davis.
We also came across a human equivalent, sort of. Rich Calder, reporting on August 7, 2018 for the New York Post, writes:
A jail guard’s bagel defense just got toasted.
The city Department of Correction ordered an officer fired on Tuesday for failing a drug test — even though an administrative law judge recently cleared him of the allegations on the grounds that his positive result was likely caused by eating a poppy seed bagel and not for getting high on dope.
The Department of Correction, however, stood by the decision, telling The Post: “There is no real evidence that a few poppy seeds can make you fail a drug test.”
The above story has more twists and turns than braided sweet bread. Or a Baffert yarn. See what we mean here »
Featured Image: Shutterstock
Going on now
On May 22, 2021 it was reported that Baffert continues competing at Santa Anita despite Medina Spirit’s positive drug test at the Kentucky Derby.
On May 20, 2021 Horse Racing Nation in an article entitled “Is Medina Spirit’s team blocking rest of Ky. Derby drug test?”, they revealed: The Louisville Courier-Journal reported Tuesday that the sample remained in the hands of Medina Spirit’s connections. Baffert’s team has since said the betamethasone might have gotten into Medina Spirit’s bloodstream through the use of an ointment to treat a condition on the colt’s rear end. WE SAY: Good thing there were no poppy seed bagels around to boot.
A native of Nogales, Ariz., Bob Baffert grew up interested in horses and graduated from the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program. After climbing to the top of the Quarter Horse racing world, where he trained four champions, Baffert began the transition to Thoroughbred racing in the late 1980s.
Updated: 7:10 am EST 5/25/21