'My team may have been sabotaged,' Seavey says
Four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey says he is withdrawing from the 2018 race. This comes after Iditarod officials revealed it was Seavey's dogs who tested positive for a prohibited substance.
After dozens of mushers demanded to know who violated Rule 39, the Iditarod Trail Committee announced Monday afternoon it was Dallas Seavey whose dogs tested positive in Nome for Tramadol, an opioid pain reliever.
In an interview with KTVA Tuesday morning, Seavey said the ITC’s board of directors had tacitly identified him as "Musher X" through details of his team, before it was called upon by other mushers to name him, “to discredit me within the mushers to make me be quiet.” He opted to withdraw from the 2018 Iditarod before the board could accuse him of violating the race’s Rule 53, which bars statement or conducts by mushers “injurious to and in reckless disregard of the best interest of the race.”
“I’m not going to race under this board,” Seavey said. “I’m not going to race under this leadership.”
Seavey also called for the committee’s board to be replaced, saying that doing so was necessary to “give the mushers the opportunity to trust them again.”
“That is how this thing is going to heal, is if the mushers and the board can communicate if we can trust each other and if we feel valued and respected by each other,” Seavey said. “That is not the case right now.”
KTVA first learned about a team testing positive for the banned substance October 9. A week later, on behalf of the unnamed musher, the Iditarod Offical Finishers Club sent a statement to the Iditarod Trail Committee:
"Musher X was determined unlikely to have administered a drug to their own dogs. 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. 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.
The Iditarod Trail Committee responded in a statement:
"Both Dr. Nelson and Mr. Nordman unequivocally confirm that there is absolutely no truth to any of the assertions of fact in that paragraph. ITC never made a determination that it was unlikely Musher X administered the drug in question... In fact, that was a hypothesis put forward by Musher X, It was rejected by ITC because it was not supported by identifiable facts but only by supposition and speculation.
Around 3:45 Monday afternoon race officials named Seavey as Musher X. About an hour later, Seavey took to Facebook to announce he will not be running in the 2018 Iditarod Race.
"I don't care if I never race another dog race," he said in a statement via YouTube. "I don't care if I never make another cent-- which is my life around this sport. I will not spend the rest of my life looking in the mirror knowing I backed down when I did nothing wrong.”
Seavey also talked about how his team might have been sabotaged. In his nearly 18-minute YouTube statement, Seavey said mushers' food bags go out to checkpoints weeks before the race and there's no one monitoring them 24/7. He also said dog teams are left alone at most of the checkpoints, sometimes for several hours.
"We're going to go inside, we're going to sleep but the Iditarod says we're supposed to play detective now as well as racing the Iditarod," he said. "And somehow they're going to recommend measures to us to be more safe in that regard rather than installing security cameras in the checkpoint."
In a statement on security, race officials say:
It is correct that ITC evaluated taking measures to increase the security of musher’s bags at food drops and surveillance at checkpoints, but at this point in time its budget does not permit what could be substantial cost increases for that type of 24/7 security. ITC believes that the mushers themselves can adopt practices which minimize any risks of tampering.
As the news about Seavey makes its way through the mushing community, Iditarod competitors seem hesitant to react.
KTVA reached out to more than one dozen mushers on Tuesday morning and most phone calls went straight to voicemail.
Four-time champion Jeff King, however, was vocal about his support for Seavey. He said he thinks the Iditarod Trail Committee board members did the best they could with a bad situation, he doesn’t believe Seavey would ever intentionally drug his dogs.
“As incomprehensible as it is for any musher, and how ridiculous the chosen drug and location levels were—I have no information beyond what’s been made public—it just doesn’t add up,” King said.
King has known the Seavey family for more than 30 years and seen Dallas grow up in the sport.
“Until you have spent as many miles on a sled, held as many puppies and scratched as many ears as me or Dallas Seavey has, you can’t comprehend the love we have for this,” King said.
The Associated Press contributed information to this story.