Director of Equine Drug Testing Lab Entangled in Medina Spirit Lawsuit

New York Equine Drug Testing Laboratory director is fighting subpoenas in a case related to Medina Spirit’s disqualification from the 2021 Kentucky Derby. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

The director of the largely state-funded lab that handles drug testing for New York’s horse racing industry is resisting subpoenas in a lawsuit stemming from Medina Spirit’s disqualification from the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) is trying to compel Dr. George Maylin, director of the New York State Equine Drug Testing Lab, to turn over documents related to the tests he was asked to perform on urine samples from Medina Spirit, as a non-party in a lawsuit brought by legendary trainer Bob Baffert.

How the Medina Spirit Samples Landed in Ithaca, NY

Nearly a week after the 2021 Kentucky Derby race, the first horse to cross the finish line, Medina Spirit, tested positive for betamethasone, a steroid banned for use on horses as the day approached. of the race. As is normal procedure, testing of a split sample also confirmed the finding and Medina Spirit was disqualified and stripped of the title.

In June last year, Medina Spirit trainer and owner Bob Baffert and Amr Zedan respectively, sued the KHRCarguing that more testing should be allowed on the horse’s remaining urine samples.

At the heart of Baffert’s argument is a claim that Medina Spirit’s positive test was the result of using a topical ointment called Otomax, which also contains betamethasone.

The Kentucky court awarded Baffert’s team send request Medina Spirit’s remaining urine sample at the New York Equine Drug Testing Lab in Tompkins County. Baffert’s team specifically requested that the samples be sent to the New York lab.

The court order also stated that Baffert and Zedan would cover the cost of shipping the urine samples to Ithaca via private plane.

“I am of the opinion that the finding of betamethasone in the official A and B samples taken from Medina Spirit by the KHRC following the 2021 Kentucky Derby is the result of topical administration of Otomax and not an injection of betamethasone” , Maylin wrote in court papers outlining his conclusion.

In a separate space one page letter regarding his findings, Maylin wrote that his conclusions were partially based on a research study he was conducting involving biological signatures associated with Otomax administration. Maylin maintained that the study was unrelated to his work testing Medina Spirit samples. He later wrote that he started the research study before the derby took place in 2021.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission wants more

After Maylin presented his conclusion, the KHRC asked for more evidence to support his conclusion, including documentation of the research project and its origins. According to court records, the commission attempted to reach an agreement to depose Maylin, who collapsed when he refused to be interviewed in person, reportedly over concerns about COVID-19. In the meantime, Maylin sent KHRC a data file containing details of his analysis of the sample, but declined to produce further documentation.

At the request of the KHRC, the Kentucky court officially subpoenaed Maylin to produce documents associated with the research study, and any communications or financial arrangements with the Baffert team.

“Given that Dr. Maylin forms the basis of Mr. Baffert’s primary affirmative defense, every document requested by the Commission in its subpoena must be produced,” KHRC wrote in its application to the Tompkins County Supreme Court. to enforce Kentucky’s subpoena. “In particular, Dr. Maylin should produce all documents relating to his unpublished ‘research project’, which forms the basis of his claims that his laboratory can detect betamethasone valerate in horse urine. These documents will provide further evidence demonstrating whether Dr. Maylin’s new unpublished methods are suitable to be introduced at the hearing.

KHRC also included in its Tompkins County lawsuit of them testimonials equine drug testing efforts questioning Maylin’s conclusion.

After the complaint was filed, Maylin agreed to sit for a deposition by videoconference.

“Can I go back to my day job now?” Maylin requested near the end of a nearly three-hour deposition, according to an excerpt published in court records.

Maylin still refuses to disclose the other documents specified in the subpoena.

“This research project is not relevant to Medina Spirits urine analysis,” Maylin written in a statement accompanying his testimony. “{KHRC} chooses not to duplicate my work from the remaining sample still available in my lab, but has decided to harass me with requests for “raw data” that he knows from his own expert to which he does not has no right. The defendant-plaintiff would prefer to explore a multitude of means, to exclude my work and my testimony, apparently because they are beneficial to the plaintiffs.”

Maylin also maintained that he had no contact or financial dealings with Baffert’s team.

Lawyers for Baffert defended Maylin’s refusal submit the documents to the court.

Brad Maione, director of communications for the New York Gaming Commission, declined to comment on the case because it is pending litigation. The gaming commission is not a party to the lawsuit.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment,” said SUNY press secretary Holly Liapis, citing the fact that Maylin is not a SUNY employee.

The Equine Drug Testing Laboratory reports to the Morrisville Auxiliary Society, a non-profit organization loosely affiliated with SUNY Morrisville. The same non-profit runs the campus store and some on-campus housing units.

Reputation issues

The discrepancy on the root of Medina Spirit’s positive test is not, in and of itself, a definitive cure for any of Baffert’s challenges. Betamethasone is banned at Churchill Downs, whether it comes from an ointment or an injection. The breach would also violate KHRC rules, the commission argues.

In February, the KHRC published a 90 day suspension on Baffert, preventing him from participating in that year’s Kentucky Derby. Now back on the trail, the lawsuit is one of Baffert’s latest attempts to clear his reputation.

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