Why it’s Time to End the Iditarod



After “several” sled dogs competing in the 2017 Iditarod tested positive for “a prohibited substance,” the Iditarod Trail Committee Board of Directors voted Friday to change its rules. The dogs that tested positive were in a “single musher’s team,” the Iditarod said in a statement released Monday. The statement did not name the musher or say what drug the dogs tested positive for. – Anchorage Daily News, October 9th 2017

Several sled dogs on a 2017 Iditarod team tested positive for tramadol, a pain reliever prohibited by the race, the Iditarod Trail Committee said Tuesday. The Iditarod released the information in a brief statement late Tuesday afternoon, several days after race officials last week refused to name the prohibited drug or the musher involved. Race spokesman Chas St. George said last week that “legal concerns” prevented the release of the information. – Anchorage Daily News, October 17th 2017

The Iditarod Official Finishers Club president sent a statement to mushers Wednesday on behalf of the unnamed competitor whose dogs, race officials said, tested positive for tramadol, a prohibited pain reliever, in the 2017 race. The statement does not name the competitor, referring to him or her as “Musher X.” “Musher X was led to believe that the Head Veterinarian and Race Marshall suspected either an accident or possibly foul play in the Nome dog lot or food bags,” the statement said. “They assured Musher X the issue was over, no further action was necessary, and that measures were being taken to increase security of the food drops, checkpoints, and the Nome dog yard.” – Anchorage Daily News, October 19th 2017

Musher X will be allowed to participate in next year’s race and will not face any disciplinary actions.KTUU NBC, October 19th 2017

Three-time and defending Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Mitch Seavey of Sterling appears to have used a prohibited substance on his dogs for years if his 2014 testimonial for a supplement maker and his Facebook posts are to be believed. “For nearly two decades, I’ve used Young Living Wintergreen Oil for after-workout massages on my elite canine athletes,” he posted on his Facebook page on Feb. 13, 2015. “In fact, we used so much Wintergreen we once tried a knock-off product from an online source – until the dogs began losing hair and suffering skin irritations.” Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate, an Iditarod-prohibited chemical. Seavey has not returned phone calls. – Craig Medred News, October 16th 2017

At this time, Mitch Seavey will be allowed to participate in next year’s Iditarod and will not face any disciplinary actions, as the ITC has not even addressed this issue.


Statement from the Iditarod Official Finisher’s Club:

The IOFC unanimously demands the release of Musher X’s name within 72 hours
and is asking for complete transparency moving forward.

Additionally the IOFC unanimously believes that Rule 53, more commonly referred to as the “gag rule,” needs to be eliminated in its entirety from the 2018 race and from future races. Whether intended or not, Rule 53 makes mushers fear speaking out against the race or its policies for fear of retribution. The IOFC believes that in the creation of Rule 53 that the ITC has done more harm than good to the sport of dog sledding, and seeks to immediately reverse that policy. (http://bit.ly/2gDDNdD)

In March of 2015, the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer reported on the induction of Rule 53, stating that:

The rule, which hasn’t been publicly announced or commented on by race officials, bars mushers from making remarks deemed harmful to the race or its sponsors from the time they sign up until 45 days after crossing the finish line in Nome. The rule is a bad one — in seeking to muzzle mushers, the Iditarod is saying it doesn’t trust the people who are the face of the race. (http://bit.ly/2zKBk5x)



“Iditarod musher Jason Mackey was charged on Thursday with stealing four dog kennels from another musher in Nome after the teams completed the 2017 race. Mackey, 45, faces a single charge of third-degree theft, a misdemeanor.” – Anchorage Daily News, October 19th 2017

“Four-time Iditarod and Yukon Quest champion Lance Mackey was arrested for driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a chemical breath test in Fairbanks Sunday.” – Anchorage Daily News, June 3rd 2013

“Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey was arrested near Fairbanks on Saturday for violating conditions of release in a pending 2013 DUI case by driving without a valid license, the Alaska State Troopers said. He didn’t have a valid driver’s license or proof of vehicle insurance.” – Anchorage Daily News, April 6th 2014

“The wife of four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champ Lance Mackey was arrested on Monday for assault.” – Anchorage Daily News, January 17th 2012

“The driver was identified as Tonga L. Mackey, age 43 of Sterling. An investigation revealed Mackey was driving while impaired by alcohol. Mackey was arrested and remanded to the Anchorage Jail.” – Turnagain Times, October 18th 2012

“Investigation revealed the driver, Tonga Mackey age 47 of Wasilla, was operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.  Mackey was arrested for DUI Alcohol and transported to the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility.” – State of Alaska Daily Dispatch, April 20th 2017

“A veteran Iditarod musher and his longtime partner have been charged with assault in an incident with Alaska State Troopers, who showed up at the couple’s Talkeetna cabin late Sunday. Neighbors said Gerald “Jerry” Sousa fired a gun while driving a four-wheeler on their land. Neighbors called about Sousa, a member of the Iditarod Trail Committee Inc., who finished 20th in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this year. The troopers met Sousa at his cabin’s front door. He was naked and holding a black revolver, according to Blanchette’s account in the charging document.” – Anchorage Daily News, July 18th 2012

“A musher who has been charged in a domestic violence case has been banned from next year’s Iditarod, race officials announced Friday in Alaska. The Iditarod Trail Committee Board said in a prepared statement that it ‘will not accept race applications from Travis Beals in 2017 and for an indefinite period of time thereafter.’ Beals faces misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief charges filed in state court in Palmer for a Dec. 21 incident in Willow, Alaska.” – New York Daily News, April 30th 2016

“A former Jr. Iditarod champion and son of a legendary musher was arrested  Wednesday after taking police on a car chase ending in an hour-long stand-off. Rohn Buser, the 20-year-old son of four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser and 2008 Iditarod musher himself, sped south past Alaska State Troopers in a construction zone just outside of Seward, said Seward Police Chief Tom Clemons.” – Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, February 27th 2010

“Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King has been charged in federal court with illegally killing a moose inside the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve. Charging documents filed in Fairbanks this week also accuse the musher of illegally driving an ATV off road in the park during the hunt last fall. Both violations are misdemeanors. The case was investigated by national park rangers, who discovered a moose kill site inside the north border of the park, Denali spokeswoman Kris Fister said.” – The Seattle Times, April 10th 2009


“A West Yellowstone man has been charged with animal cruelty for allegedly abandoning 33 sled dogs earlier this month near Targhee Pass, west of West Yellowstone. John T. Hessert was charged with one count of felony aggravated animal cruelty and 33 counts of animal cruelty. A veterinarian found they were “well below normal health,” and had not been fed enough. Court records say one of the dogs had a collar embedded in its neck and other dogs had frostbite.” – Montana News Station, July 14th 2008

“In September 1991, Frank Winkler, a two-time Iditarod racer, was charged with 14 counts of cruelty to animals after an animal control officer, summoned by Winkler’s neighbor, found a crate of dead and dying puppies in Winkler’s pickup truck. Winkler allegedly bludgeoned the puppies with the blunt end of an ax.” – American Chronicle, January 24th 2006

“Jerry Riley, the 1975 winner of the Iditarod, was banned for life in 1990 after he hit and killed a dog with a snow hook – a large, sharp metal claw.” – American Chronicle, January 24th 2006


2000 Iditarod – RIP Tobuk

A dog named Tobuk traveling in the team of musher Al Hardman near Elim abruptly keeled over and died (March 16th). Exactly one year ago on March 15 Rodman, Jeremy Gebauer’s dog, died of the same affliction running Iditarod ’99, said race veterinarian Stuart Nelson.

2001 Iditarod – RIP Dan, Carhartt

Race officials said preliminary findings of a necropsy performed on the 3-year-old male named Dan showed fluid in the lungs. The dog’s death was determined to have been caused by pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs. The only other significant abnormalities observed included a decrease in esophageal and gastric (stomach) muscle tone combined with gastric ulcerations.

Little from Kasilof, a reporter for the Daily News, left the dog (Carhartt) in the care of Iditarod handlers Tuesday because it looked tired and wasn’t eating well. The dog was signed our of Hiland Mountain late Thursday by Melissa DeVaughn, an experienced musher and co-worker of Little’s. She found it dead in her yard Friday morning. The dog died of an uncommon condition known as pyothorax, a bacterial infection of the chest cavity lining.

2002 Iditarod – RIP Goro, Mark

Jim Oehlschlaeger’s dog Goro died in the 2002 Iditarod. He was a 5 year old male. The preliminary report released Monday night said the dog suffered a spinal injury in the neck area as the result of a tangle in the gangline.

The Iditarod Trail Committee was notified today by Musher DeeDee Jonrowe that her lead dog Mark died during surgery to repair a stomach ulcer.

2003 Iditarod – RIP Joker

Joker, a 7-year-old male, was in the team of Jim Gallea. The dog died Sunday as Gallea was traveling from White Mountain to Safety.

2004 Iditarod – RIP Wolf, Takk

A 5-year-old dog in the team of Lance Mackey of Kasilof died Tuesday, the first animal to perish in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. Race marshal Mark Nordman said the dog, named Wolf, died about 20 miles into the 80-mile-long trip mushers make across the desolate Farewell Burn from a cabin in Rohn to the town of Nikolai.

Kjetil Backen, who was between a quarter-mile and half-mile from the Unalakleet checkpoint when he stopped his sled, said the dog (a 7-year-old male named Takk) sat down and died.

2005 Iditarod – RIP Rita, Nellie, Oakley, Tyson

Gebhardt’s dog Rita dropped dead while in harness en route from Anvik on March 12.  A preliminary necropsy indicates the cause of death was anemia, from gastric ulcers.

Nellie, Doug Swingley’s dog died in Anchorage on March 17, after being dropped off in Elim at March 15 with pneumonia. The gross necropsy indicated an intestinal abnormality (a double intussusception).

Oakley, Jason Barron’s dog died on March 17 on the way to Nome from Safety. The gross necropsy revealed no cause of death.

Tyson, Michael Salvisberg’s dog died on March 18. Tyson was dropped in White Mountain and transported to Nome. The dog was tied to the ski of the plane but the lead came loose and Tyson ran onto the ice of the Bering Sea, fell into open water, and drowned.

2006 Iditarod – RIP Yellowknife, Bear, Cupid, Jack

Yellowknife, a 4-year-old male from Noah Burmeister’s team, died on March 9 at 6:00 a.m.. Yellowknife was initially dropped at Rohn on March 7, and was provided medical care in Anchorage. The preliminary necroposy indicated pneumonia as the cause of death.

Bear, a 3-year-old male from David Sawatzsky’s team, died on March 11 between Cripple and Ruby. The gross necroposy found no abnormalities.

Cupid, a 4-year-old female from Jim Lanier’s team, died on March 12 between Galena and Nulato. The gross necropsy found regurgitation and aspiration were the likely cause of death, and secondarily gastric ulcers.

Jack, a 5-year-old male from Wisconsin musher Ron Cortte’s team, died on March 18 at White Mountain. Jack was examined by veterinarians on arrival and appeared normal, but died of unknown causes 30 min later.

2007 Iditarod – RIP Snickers, Thongy, “Name Unknown”

Witnesses said they saw Ramy Brooks punch and kick some of his dogs and hit them with a ski pole when they refused to leave a checkpoint during a March 15, 2007 stage in Golovin, Alaska, less than 100 miles (160 km) from the finish in Nome, Alaska. One of Brooks‘ dogs died the day after the incident, but a necropsy could not determine why the dog died (name unknown).

Snickers, a six and a half year old female in the team of Karen Ramstead, died at approximately 11 p.m. on Sunday night in the checkpoint of Grayling. Preliminary indications showed that Snickers expired as a result of and acute hemorrhage due to a gastric ulcer.

A three year old male named “Thong” in the team of Matt Hayashida, died this morning on the trail between Koyuk and Elim. Preliminary indications showed that Thong expired as a result of acute pneumonia.

2008 Iditarod – RIP Zaster, Lorne, Cargo

A 7-year-old male named ‘Zaster’ in the team of musher #87, John Stetson, died at 0120 this morning. Zaster was dropped at Ophir at 0200 on Friday and had been transported to Anchorage where he was being treated for signs of pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia was determined to be the likely cause of death.

At approximately 10 p.m. last evening, a snowmachiner ran into Jennifer Freking’s team on the Yukon River near Koyukuk. Unfortunately, the incident caused the death of a 3-year-old female named ‘Lorne.’

A 4-year-old male named ‘Cargo’ died at 5:00 pm on Tuesday March 11, 2008. Cargo was part of the team of Kotzebue Alaska musher, Ed Iten (Bib #32). He passed away between Elim and White Mountain.

2009 Iditarod – RIP Victor, Dizzy, Grasshopper, Maynard, Omen, Cirque

A dog (6-year-old Victor) running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Jeff Holt’s team died suddenly early Tuesday morning, according to a press release from the race’s Anchorage headquarters. It happened between the Rainy Pass and Rohn checkpoints.

Two more dogs (Dizzy and Grasshopper) have died during the 2009 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Musher Lou Packer, a rookie from Wasilla, was overdue on his run from the ghost town of Iditarod to Shageluk along with two other teams on Monday when race officials dispatched an Iditarod Air Force pilot to search for them. When spotted by the pilot, Packer signaled he was in distress, according to an Iditarod press release. Upon landing, the pilot discovered that two of Packer’s 15 dogs had died. Rookie Lou Packer, a physician from Wasilla, believes his dogs died of hypothermia after his team was trapped out in 45-below temperatures and howling wind in the Innoko River country. He could feel ice begin to form under the skin of one of the dogs before its death, he said, but there was nothing he could do to help the animal.

A five year old male named Maynard in the team of Warren Palfrey (Yellowknife NWT, Canada) died on the trail between Safety and Nome late last evening. The incident occurred about an hour before Palfrey’s arrival.

An eight year old male named Omen in the team of Rick Larson (Bib #5) died on the Iditarod Trail between Elim and White Mountain earlier today.

Earlier today (at approximately 12 noon AKDT) Iditarod Race officials sent a plane from Nome to Shaktoolik to pick up scratched musher Alan Peck’s dog team. On the flight back to Nome the aircraft encountered significant turbulence. By the time the pilot was able to land in Golovin, it was discovered that one of the dogs (Cirque, a 2 year-old female) was deceased.

2013 Iditarod – RIP Dorado

A dog that died in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race asphyxiated while getting buried in snow during severe wind, officials said Saturday. Dorado belonged to rookie musher Paige Drobny’s team. The dog was dropped from the race Monday and was being cared for in an area set up to car for dogs dropped from the race.

2015 Iditarod – RIP Stuart, Wyatt, Stiffy

An Iditarod sled dog was struck and killed by a car in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday night, nearly seven hours after breaking away from his team during the ceremonial start for the race. The dog, a 3-year-old black husky mix named Stuart, belonged to the team of Colorado musher Lachlan Clarke.

A 3-year-old sled dog named Wyatt, in the team of Lance Mackey, died early Thursday afternoon on the 119-mile trip from Tanana to Ruby, according to Iditarod Race Marshal Mark Nordman.

A second sled dog on the team of four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey has died on the trail, race officials say. A 3-year-old male husky named Stiffy expired at about 5:15 p.m. as Mackey, 44, traveled from Elim to the White Mountain, according to Race Marshal Mark Nordman.

2016 Iditarod – RIP Nash

A snowmachiner says he was driving drunk when he hit two dog teams racing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday, killing one dog and injuring several others. The snowmachine hit King’s team, according to a press release from the Iditarod Trail Committee, resulting in the death of 3-year-old Nash and non-life-threatening injuries to two others: 2-year-old Banjo and 3-year-old Crosby. A dog in Zirkle’s team also received a non-life-threatening injury.

2017 Iditarod – RIP Deacon, Smoke, Groovey, Flash, Shilling

A 2-year-old male dog named Deacon, running on Sterling musher Seth Barnes’ team, died outside Galena late Thursday night, Iditarod officials reported. A report from the race said the dog died at ‘approximately 11:40 p.m. … just prior to Barnes’ arrival at the Galena checkpoint.

A second dog has died in the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Smoke, a 2-year-old on the team of Willow musher Scott Smith, was being transported from Galena to Anchorage late Friday when he ‘died unexpectedly,’ according to a news release from race officials. Smith had dropped Smoke in Manley Hot Springs on Tuesday due to a wrist injury.

A 3-year-old dog dropped during this year’s race [2017] was reportedly hit and killed by a vehicle in Anchorage after escaping from his handler’s home, according to Iditarod race marshall Mark Nordman. The dog, Groovey, was a member of John Baker’s dog team.

At approximately 1 a.m. this morning, Flash, a four-year-old male from the race team of Katherine Keith (bib #52), collapsed in harness and died shortly thereafter. The incident occurred about ten miles prior to Katherine’s arrival in Koyuk.

An Iditarod musher’s sled dog collapsed and died shortly before his team arrived at Unalakleet checkpoint Wednesday morning. Shilling, a 3-year-old male dog on the team of rookie musher [Air Force lieutenant colonel] Roger Lee, died about 10 miles before the checkpoint, according to a statement by the Iditarod Trail Committee.