Trainer adamant that doomed filly Eight Belles was not on steroids

Eight Belles was euthanized after breaking both front ankles Saturday.

.STANTON, Del. (AP) – The trainer of Eight Belles is certain the filly was never on steroids, and has ordered tests to prove it.

Larry Jones said Tuesday he wanted to dispel any suggestion the Kentucky Derby runner-up was on performance-enhancing drugs. Eight Belles was euthanized after breaking both front ankles Saturday, a quarter-mile after the finish at Churchill Downs.

“I guarantee there were no steroids ever on the horse,” Jones said at a news conference at Delaware Park, site of the filly’s first win.

Eight Belles’ owner, Rick Porter, said the preliminary necropsy result showed the death came as a result of the fracture of the filly’s two front cannon bones.

Jones was adamant that the necropsy will show no use of performance-enhancing drugs, and hoped it would uncover any previously undiscovered “soundness issues.”

Jones is still emotional about the loss of the horse three days after the Derby. He broke down three times during the 30-minute news conference while recalling the filly.

But the trainer’s voice rose when he said he was responding to unspecified criticism he heard on radio programs while returning from Kentucky to Delaware that his horse must have been on steroids because she was so large.

“We’re taking a lot of abuse out there. … We’re being accused of steroid abuse because she was so large,” he said. “I can tell you that Mr. Porter goes to the sale to look for good horses and that’s one of the things you look for – a horse that’s big enough, strong enough and fast enough to compete in big races.”

Jones said the last time he used steroids was in 1997, on a severely injured horse. He said, even then, he used just a fraction of the allowable amount of the drug.

The use of steroids is a hot-button issue in racing and there is a growing movement to crack down on the use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

At this point, Derby horses aren’t tested for steroids. But that might soon change because of increased pressure from inside and outside the industry for racing to develop stricter drug regulations.