Iditarod dogs caught in doping scandal

Iditarod dogs caught in doping scandal

Dogsledding has become the latest professional sport to be engulfed in a doping scandal,

Cycling. Baseball. Track. Horse racing. Now dogsledding has become the latest professional sport to be engulfed in a doping scandal, this one involving the huskies that dash across the frozen landscape in Alaska’s grueling, 1,000-mile Iditarod.

The governing board of the world’s most famous sled dog race disclosed Monday that four dogs belonging to four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey tested positive for a banned substance, the opioid painkiller Tramadol, after his second-place finish last March.

It was the first time since the race instituted drug testing in 1994 that a test came back positive.

Seavey strongly denied giving any banned substances to his dogs, suggesting instead that he may have been the victim of sabotage by another musher or an animal rights activist. He accused the Iditarod of lax security at dog-food drop-off points and other spots.

Race officials said he will not be punished because they were unable to prove he acted intentionally. That means he will keep his titles and his $59,000 in winnings this year.

But the finding was another blow to the Iditarod, which has seen the loss of major sponsors, numerous dog deaths, attacks on competitors and pressure from animal rights activists, who say huskies are run to death or left with severe infections and bloody paws.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals seized on the scandal Tuesday.

“If a member of the Iditarod’s ‘royalty’ dopes dogs, how many other mushers are turning to opioids in order to force dogs to push through the pain?” PETA said in a statement. It added: “This doping scandal is further proof that this race needs to end.”

Fern Levitt, director of the documentary “Sled Dogs,” an expose on the treatment of the huskies, said, “The race is all about winning and getting to the finish line despite the inhumane treatment towards the dogs.”

Seavey won the annual Anchorage-to-Nome trek in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and has had nine straight top-10 finishes. He finished second this year to his father, Mitch, who collected a first-place prize of $71,250.

Dogs are subject to random testing before and during the race, and the first 20 teams to cross the finish line are all automatically tested.

“I did not give a drug to my dog. I’ve never used a banned substance in the race,” the 30-year-old Seavey said in an interview. He said Tramadol is not used at his kennel, and it is “incredibly unlikely” it was accidentally administered by anyone on his team.

Instead, he complained of inadequate security at checkpoints along the route where dog food is dropped off weeks ahead of time and at the dog lot in Nome, where thousands of huskies are kept after the race before they are flown home.

“Unfortunately I do think another musher is an option,” he said. He added: “There are also people who are not fans of mushing as a whole. They are numerous videos out that are trying to say mushing is a bad thing. And I can see somebody doing this to promote their agenda.”

Seavey said whoever gave the drug to the dogs knew it would cause a positive test, and “that should make me and my people the least likely suspect.”

Earlier this year, the Iditarod lost a major corporate backer, Wells Fargo, and race officials accused animal rights organizations of pressuring the bank and other sponsors with “manipulative information” about the treatment of the dogs.

Five dogs connected to this year’s race died, bringing total deaths to more than 150 in the Iditarod’s 44-year history, according to PETA’s count. And last year, two mushers were attacked by a drunken man on a snowmobile in separate assaults near a remote village. One dog was killed and others were injured. The attacker was given a six-month sentence.

Seavey said he has withdrawn from next year’s race in protest and expects the Iditarod Trail Committee to ban him anyway for speaking out. Mushers are prohibited from criticizing the race or sponsors. Iditarod spokesman Chas St. George said a ban would be up to the committee’s board of directors.

The committee decided to release the name of the offending musher on Monday after scores of competitors demanded it do so. Race officials initially refused because, they said, it was unlikely they could prove the competitor acted intentionally and because a lawyer advised them not to make the name public.

At the time of this year’s race, the rules on doping essentially said that to punish a musher, race officials had to provide proof of intent. The rules have since been changed to hold mushers liable for any positive drug test unless they can show something beyond their control happened.

Wade Marrs, president of the Iditarod Official Finishers Club, said he doesn’t believe Seavey intentionally administered the drugs to his animals. Marrs said he believes the musher has too much integrity and intelligence to do such a thing.

“I don’t really know what to think at the moment,” Marrs said. “It’s a very touchy situation.”

 

Iditarod dogs caught in doping scandal

Just Posted

A wildfire near Cottonwood Lake was put out by Nelson firefighters Sunday night. Photo: Submitted
Wildfire extinguished near Cottonwood Lake

Lightning-caused fire was near one of Nelson’s water sources

West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air leaving Castlegar airport in July

The airline says market can’t handle two airlines

Photo: Trail Times
Trail RCMP start June by nabbing impaired drivers

Latest brief from the Trail and Greater District police

“This is very costly to replace and it seems that Rossland is getting more and more theft and vandalism happening, which is really unfortunate,” says the commission’s Michelle Fairbanks. Photo: Submitted
Two plaques stolen from Rossland heritage square

The plaques were located at Washington and Columbia by the Olaus statue

No matter your age, the city’s two skate park hosts Jaryd Justice-Moote (left) and Brenden Wright can help you roll into a new pastime this “Summer at the Skatepark.” Photo: City of Trail
Free coaching at the Trail Sk8Park begins next month

The city is rolling into a summer of inclusive recreation by, for… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Most Read