Bob Baffert and the Cheating Thing

In his autobiography, Bob Baffert, six-time Kentucky-Derby winner and two-time Triple-Crown winner, confessed that he gave a horse morphine in 1976. He said he was a college student who did it partly out of ignorance and partly because of the pressure to win. How are those two reasons consistent? There was either ignorance or there was not. How does pressure enter into a decision to do something that you did not know was wrong?

Be that as it may, the California Racing Board thought through the reasoning and suspended Mr. Baffert from horse-racing for a year. Apparently the punishment was insufficient. Mr. Baffert has had four horses fail drug tests in just the last six months. Over the course of his career, his horses have failed 29 drug tests. The Barometer has chronicled previously those last few tests, including Mr. Baffert’s “dog ate my homework” excuses.

Two Baffert-trained horses tested positive for lidocaine. One had won the Arkansas Derby on May 2 ($300,000 prize). The other had won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont by 19 lengths in record time. Justify, the 2018 Triple-Crown winner, had tested positive for scopolamine following his win in the Santa Anita Derby. The closed hearing of the California Horse Racing Board concluded (long after the Triple Crown results and well after Justify was sold for breeding rights for $60 million) that environmental conditions, not intentional doping, caused the presence of scopolamine. Apparently, scopolamine exists naturally in feed and bedding. The California Horse Racing Board is currently holding hearings to determine whether to revoke Baffert’s $600,000 Santa Anita prize. The issue is whether the amount of scopolamine in Justify was too high to have come from feed or bedding. Was it naturally occurring scopolamine or was it scopolamine that came in during the wee hours of the morning?

Two other Baffert horses, Carlatan and Gamine, tested positive for lidocaine. Baffert and others argued that the horses were accidentally exposed to lidocaine by an assistant trainer who had applied a medicinal patch to his own back, i.e., he used Salonpas, which transferred small amounts to the horses through the application of a tongue tie (keeps horses from getting their tongues over the bit — it is elastic wrapped around a horse’s tongue and then tied along the lower jaw). Following the hearing Baffert was suspended for 15 days and the first-place wins for the horses were taken back, along with the cash.

No wonder the horses do better with lidocaine — try tying your tongue down to your lower jaw.

Now, as three Baffert horses are set for the Breeder’s Cup (about $6 million in prize money), the rest of the pack (or their trainers) has noted that one of the horses, Gamine, has failed two drug tests. The owners and trainers wonder why Baffert has not been banned from the race. Not to worry — the regulators are looking into it. The Barometer guesses the investigation will wrap up after the race. For the moment, Baffert and those responsible for oversight are quiet. Perhaps tongue-tied? One owner who has stopped competing noted it becomes “difficult to win because of the cheating.” Seems appropriate for this period in our history.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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4 Responses to Bob Baffert and the Cheating Thing

  1. John Corrigan says:

    California Racing Board ruling on an ethics violation? Does anyone in California even know what ethics means?

  2. mmjdiary says:

    It is a bit of a barren land, eh? Somehow California manages to regulate everything under the sun, including even access to the sun, but somehow cannot step in when there is cheating and real harm. If you look at the structure of the board, you have conflicts issues. The chairman at the time of the last Baffert decision had employed Baffert as a trainer previously. Generally, eliminating conflicts is the first rule of good governance. Can’t clean up horse ricing until you clean up after the owners’ messes.

  3. Clean Uncle Sam says:

    Test Bafferd for ellegal substance. Once a cheatter always a cheater.

  4. mmjdiary says:

    Yes — I read Baffert’s book (not a very well written one). Through his own words we see a man who was always pushing the envelope, followed by a sort of gleeful delight in having gotten away with it. In some cases, it was stunning to see him put in writing the things that he has done. Funny horses can’t cheat — only the humans training, caring for, and riding them can. Whether in baseball, bicycling, or horse racing, there is that turn when it is not enough to offer heart, strength, and discipline as the traits of success. ‘Tis an ugly turn indeed.

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