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Citing poor health, Yukon Quest leader Brent Sass withdraws from Iditarod

Suzanna Caldwell
Brent Sass arrives at the Dawson City checkpoint during this year's Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Sass, who suffered a concussion later in the race, says he will withdraw from this year's Iditarod. Yukon Quest / Heidi McGuire

With his health "far from 100 percent," Iditarod contender Brent Sass said he will not run this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

In a Facebook post Friday, Sass wrote that after consulting with doctors and friends he made the "very, very tough" decision to withdraw from the race.

"Wild and Free (Sass' kennel) has a very bright future with many more Yukon Quests and Iditarods ahead of us," Sass wrote. "Right now it is important that I focus on my health so that we can live up to the future potential we have."

Sass, the 2012 Iditarod Rookie of the Year who placed 22nd last year, is still recovering from a concussion he suffered on the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race trail last week.

Sass was withdrawn from the race after he fell 13 miles from Braeburn, the penultimate checkpoint on the Yukon Quest trail. Sass had been leading for large portions of the race and was still in contention when, fatigued and underfed, he fell off the back of his sled and smacked his head on lake ice. Suffering concussion symptoms and unable to adequately care for his dog team, he deployed his emergency beacon and was withdrawn from the race.

Three days after the rescue, Sass said he still had a "gut-wrenching" headache and numbness in his hands. He told reporters that he was still considering the Iditarod race, but would wear a helmet.

Sass is the fourth musher to withdraw from the Iditarod this year, leaving 70 mushers in the field. The ceremonial start is set to begin March 1 in downtown Anchorage. Whether the race will follow its traditional course from Willow to Nome is still being determined due to poor trail conditions. Race officials said they will make an official determination Monday.