Lawyer: Dallas Seavey should be cleared in dog doping scandal
In an effort to clear his name after accusations of his dogs being drugged during last year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Dallas Seavey went on the offensive Wednesday.
At a press conference in downtown Anchorage his lawyer, former Anchorage district attorney Clint Campion, called Seavey a “scapegoat” in the dog doping scandal which Campion says is tarnishing the four-time Iditarod champion's name.
Following the finish of last year’s race in Nome, four of Seavey’s dogs tested positive for Tramadol, a pain reliever. It’s a charge that Seavey has vehemently denied.
The Seavey camp provided new information from an independent toxicologist, Dr. Patricia Williams, based in Louisiana. Campion says Dr. Williams reached out to them after watching Seavey’s ordeal.
Among Williams’ findings, Campion says she has provided definitive proof that the Tramadol was administered to the dogs two to four hours after the race’s conclusion. Campion says that none of Seavey’s handlers or Seavey himself gave the drugs to the animals.
Campion also called into question the ITC’s testing policy moving forward. Campion didn’t say that Seavey will run in future Iditarods. But he did note “in future races Dallas will have a very difficult time understanding exactly how the ITC is going to handle drug testing.”
Campion believes the Iditarod’s procedures in making his name public were also off. He says the ITC should aspire to conduct its testing according to the IFS (International Federation of Sled Dog sports). With a positive test, should have come an internal review if it were learned that Seavey were not in violation of a rule. “They should have maintained confidentiality."he said. "There should never have been a situation where Dallas’ name was revealed.” Seavey is eligible to race in this year’s Iditarod.
Overall Campion is satisfied with the Iditarod’s providing of documentation but legally Seavey is "leaving all his options on the table."
Seavey himself is thousands of miles away in Norway preparing for the Finnmarkslopet, a European version of the Iditarod. He’ll run his dog team the nearly 750 miles beginning on March 9.
With Seavey in Europe, his legal team was making his case on Wednesday. Seavey is looking for the Iditarod Trail Committee to exonerate him, essentially saying they made a mistake in this process.
Though Campion began his press briefing by saying the goal was to ”restore Dallas’ reputation and remove the cloud of suspicion that’s been over his head” he admitted that “the likelihood is that he will always be associated with a positive test regardless of the actual evidence.”
A statement from the ITC Friday said the only scientific finding in the Seavey camp's Tramadol-drugging report that differs from the Iditarod's is "the time window in which the drug was likely administered."
"The ITC has full confidence in its testing laboratory and stands by its drug testing policy and wants to iterate that none of the fundamentals of the testing were questioned in the independent report," the ITC wrote.
"We would like to reiterate what was stated in Dallas' release: 'The ITC wants to re-emphasize that it does not place blame on Dallas Seavey regarding the positive urine drug test results in the canine team and will continue not to speculate on the circumstances surrounding the positive drug test of his four dogs,'" ITC officials wrote. "With the 2018 race just weeks away, our focus remains ensuring a safe and secure Iditarod experience for all participants.”
Seavey has previously admitted that having a reputation as a dog doper could hurt him. He collects income through speaking engagements, hence his aggressive campaign to clear his name. Race officials notified Seavey in April about the positive test but did not make those findings public until October.
But Wednesday was more than damage control. Seavey’s PR firm in California is now handling many of his press engagements, alongside his high-powered legal representation.
On Jan. 9, Seavey sat down with KTVA and questioned the validity of the drug test. He said race officials weren’t giving him enough information, including test results for him to properly defend himself.
“If everything is in order, why can’t I see it?" he said. “Why won’t they share that with me?”
“Ten months later I’ve still not seen a urinalysis. I’ve still not seen anything that connects me to any positive test.“
Campion confirmed Wednesday that these were Seavey’s dogs.
Seavey said he doesn’t believe the Iditarod board has any incentive to clear his name.
“Who made the decisions? And what information did they use to make the decision?” he said.
Dr. Morrie Craig, a veterinary professor with long ties to Oregon State University, coordinates the Iditarod Trail Committee’s drug testing program.
On Oct. 23, the ITC issued a release outlining its procedures conducted on the test which revealed the Seavey dogs’ positive test, but referred to him as “Musher X.”
The test was administered on March 15, about six hours after Seavey crossed the finish line in Nome at 6:24 p.m., taking second place behind his father Mitch. Those urine samples were shipped on the following day, and testing on them began with the first 5-milliliter sample on March 17. Three days later another 5-milliliter sample was tested. The ITC’s report says this confirmed Tramadol.
On April 10, Seavey was notified of the failed test.
Dr. Craig's listing on the OSU website is under the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine is Professor-Toxicology. Among the items in the section of career interests was “drug testing in animal athletes including sled dog and racing pigeons.”
However, Craig’s credibility is now in question. He’d been a tenured professor on the Corvallis campus since 1977 until his firing on Oct. 30. According to the Corvallis Gazette Times, the reason for his dismissal was the sexual harassment of both a faculty member and student. He was also accused of bullying two other students.
In late January, the university was backed by a judge that Craig continue stay off the campus. Another hearing is scheduled for Feb. 22.
The ITC's board of directors also recently received an independent review from the Foraker Group. Among other findings, the group said communication among various factions needed improvement and that six of nine ITC board members could have conflicts of interest.
Failure to make changes, the report said, could results in the Iditarod losing sponsors as well as its stature as the world's top sled dog race.
Just last week, the Iditarod Official Finishers Club came out with a statement demanding Iditarod Board President Andy Baker resign due to a conflict of interest. Baker’s brother John, the 2011 champion is an active musher as is his partner Katherine Keith.
Following a meeting last Friday it was decided that Baker would not be stepping down. Musher Wade Marrs, also a board member and an annual race contender stated that change was necessary. The next board meeting is on April 13 and the board said it would revisit changes at that time.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.