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REVIEWING THE RULES – Dallas Seavey is pictured here competing in the 2011 Yukon Quest which he won at the age of 23 becoming the youngest musher to win the race.

Yukon Quest responds to Iditarod doping case

The Yukon Quest rules committee will be meeting to discuss the recent Iditarod doping scandal to ensure their rules are fair and as up to date as possible.

By Dustin Cook on October 25, 2017

The Yukon Quest rules committee will be meeting to discuss the recent Iditarod doping scandal to ensure their rules are fair and as up to date as possible.

Rules committee chair Dr. Kathleen McGill — and former head veterinarian for the race — said it is important for the group to get together and discuss the case, but they are confident in their rules and not looking at changing anything specific at this point.

This response comes as a result of a doping incident during the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the first time since the Iditarod instituted drug testing in 1994 that a test came back positive.

The governing board of the Iditarod 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.

The race will now be changing their doping rules to hold mushers responsible for any positive drug test unless they can prove it was caused by something beyond their control.

Previously, race officials had to prove intent of the musher to administer banned substances.

Looking at the rules for the Quest, McGill said they already had the responsibility on the mushers for several years.

The Quest’s 2018 rules guide states mushers are “required to protect and guard their dog team” against any foreign substance and a positive test indicates the musher has failed to meet these duties.

“Mushers are responsible for their team from start to finish,” McGill said. “I haven’t heard from mushers any pushback on that rule.”

Seavey won the Yukon Quest in 2011 as a 23-year-old rookie becoming the youngest musher to win the 1,000 mile race.

Seavey is not currently one of the 24 mushers signed up for the 2018 Quest.

Pixie Ingram, communications co-ordinator for the Quest, said since he has not signed up for the race there hasn’t been any discussion about his participation by the board and it will be something that is looked at if he does register.

In a 17-minute video posted on YouTube, Seavey 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 at the dog lot in Nome where the huskies are kept following the race before they are flown home.

Speaking only for the Quest, McGill said they take security very seriously and “limit as best as possible the public getting into a yard.”

The dog yards are limited as to who can be inside and when, McGill said, including race marshals and mushers.

Iditarod CEO Stan Hookey said in an interview with The Associated Press that discussions are underway to increase security at the dog lot in Nome and various checkpoints along the course.

One of Yukon’s most accomplished mushers, Frank Turner, commented Tuesday on the recent events involving the Iditarod as an individual and former musher and not on behalf of the Quest, of which he sits on the rules committee.

Turner, former winner and 17-time finisher of the Quest, said the case is speculative and likely always will be.

“I don’t know if anybody’s going to publicly know the truth on this one,” he said. “The only thing all of us know is four dogs tested positive for Tramadol.”

Turner said all the possible reasonings for the dogs getting the banned substances are equally unlikely and surprising.

“It’s very very strange that he would inadvertently give his dogs (banned substances) without knowing the repercussions, but at the same time it’s hard for me to believe that somebody came along and spiked his dogs. I just don’t buy that so where does that leave us — none of us know,” he said.

Although the answer may never be known, Turner said the musher has to be held ultimately responsible for their dogs.

­­“The musher is where the buck stops, it has to be,” he said. “Otherwise you’re in no man’s land.”

The previous rule for the Iditarod placing the onus on race officials “couldn’t have held up,” Turner said, noting the positive rule change to place the duties on the musher.

As for the Quest’s response to the incident, McGill said the committee will meet to review the rules following the recent events.

“Certainly the rules committee is going to discuss current events and it would be foolish of us not to,” she said. “The implication is on all of sled dog racing and not just two big races.”

- with files from The Associated Press

Comments (2)

Up 5 Down 0

Lisa N. on Nov 6, 2017 at 7:32 am

Anyone who claims sled dog racing is cruel has NEVER run a sled dog team or met a sled dog. Or watched them run. It’s in their blood. They WANT to run. You can’t stop them. They’d run with or without you. Period.
It’s about time people with little to no understanding of the sport, or the dogs, or good mushers, stop believing the propaganda of people with a myopic and unfounded view of the sport and get off their butts to actually go and experience the sport first hand with a reputable team and driver. Then they’ll realize the number one thing they CAN do to stop animal abuse is contribute to their local shelters and educate the general public, especially kids, on responsible dog care.

Up 5 Down 31

northernlife on Oct 26, 2017 at 7:42 am

If we humans didn't force these poor dogs to run 1000 miles they wouldn't need pain killers. It is about time these races were banned for once and for all. This is animal cruelty and abuse. Plain and simple. To give a dog pain killers when they are forced to run 1000 miles in so many days is actually a pretty inhumane thing to do.

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