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

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for urban Indigenous school

Centre says independent school would be first of its kind in B.C.

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read