As media swarmed the planet's most famous endurance race -- the Tour de France -- on Thursday amid claims colleagues of seven-time former champ Lance Armstrong have confessed to involvement in a massive drug conspiracy, organizers of Alaska's most famous endurance
event announced they'd caught their own drug cheat.
Matt Giblin, the 38th place finisher in the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a stoner, according to race officials. They say he tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Marijuana's "performance-enhancing" powers are hotly debated, but there is some evidence it could help in dealing with the consequences of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is one of the major issues mushers must overcome to compete in the 1,000-mile, 10-day, sled-dog race from Willow to Nome on Alaska's Bering Sea coast. Marijuana use became an issue in the race in 2009 because the other Lance -- three-time Iditarod champ and cancer survivor Lance Mackey from Fairbanks -- has a prescription to use it. Some competitors thought the dope might be giving him an edge and lobbied for testing.
"I think it's a little bit ridiculous," Mackey told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner at the time.
He then went on to win his fourth Iditarod sans help from "Mary Jane," as the drug is sometimes called. The first tests were performed during the 2010 race, and though two mushers were reportedly caught getting high they were neither identified nor punished.
The Iditarod reported tests on the drivers of the top-40 teams came back clean in 2011. But now, officials claim, they've cornered the first documented drug cheat in the history of the race. Giblin, according to a press release, "was notified of his positive test in April; however, Giblin chose to appeal the findings and intended sanctions." That lead to a June 27 Appeals Board meeting and the public announcement he is to be disqualified, and his name removed from the list of official finishers.
Race officials also are demanding Giblin pay back the $1,049 in prize money he collected. Giblin could not be reached for comment. He worked last summer as dog driver for a sled-dog tour business on a glacier near Juneau, but is no longer there. His place of residence appears at the moment unclear. His last known address in Alaska was in Big Lake.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com