Dallas Seavey, a four-time winner of the Iditarod, is not on the roster for the upcoming sled dog race, which follows his absence from the 2018 race due to the handling of a positive drug test on his dog team the year before. But, according to a statement today from the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC), the ITC finds Seavey to “have committed no wrong doing” during the 2017 race.
In a press release, ITC Board President Mike Mills said, “we want to make clear that we do not place blame on Dallas regarding the circumstances surrounding the positive drug test of his four dogs in 2017. On behalf of the ITC, I apologize to Dallas for any negative publicity and damages this situation has caused him.”
When the positive test was first announced in October of 2017, Seavey denied he had any involvement with drugging his team. Now, Seavey acknowledges the ITC’s efforts to resolve the issue, and he accepts their apology:
“I’m really pleased to sense the different tone, but I do feel like the Board has some really talented people in there now; people with the right backgrounds and the right expertise to actually be able to take the Iditarod forward and move us from what many mushers feel has been a bit of a standstill, and get it into gear, and continue to grow and change with the times and evolve this sport.”
Although the ITC Board’s announcement states it does not believe Seavey had “any involvement with, or knowledge of, the events that led to the positive test in his team,” there is still no proven explanation of how Seavey’s dogs were given Tramadol.
Without knowing who or what drugged his team, Seavey feels it’s best to just move forward and learn from what has already happened.
“I guess I feel like I’ve exhausted every avenue, and I feel like I can show that we didn’t do it, but I don’t feel that we can show what did happen.”
In Seavey’s opinion, there is still room to improve the “Last Great Race,” but the ITC’s announcement and new security measures is a step in the right direction. According to the ITC, during future races, all food drop bags will be sealed with zip ties, surveillance equipment has been added to cover the Nome dog lot near the finish line, and more security protocols could be added to the 2019 race.
At this point in time, Seavey has not ruled out running this year’s Iditarod, however, he says he is leaning towards entering the Finnmarkslopet again, Norway’s premier long-distance race. That event is set to begin on March 8.
“I think the Iditarod is a fully raceable race right now; I would be happy to compete in the Iditarod. I don’t know if my plans will allow for that right now, but if I don’t race in the Iditarod, it won’t be because of some shortcomings on their side. I have been turning my focus towards Norway; I got a taste of it last year. I feel like that’s a big challenge I haven’t figured out yet; it’s a puzzle I haven’t completed yet.”
Although the early window for Iditarod signups has closed, Seavey and other interested mushers have until February 14 to register, but according to race rules, that would require them to pay a $4,000 non-refundable fee in addition to the entry fee.
The 2019 Iditarod sled dog race is scheduled to begin on March 2 with the ceremonial start in Anchorage.
Image at top: file photo: 2014 Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey speaks at the podium at the finishers’ banquet in Nome. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.