The Iditarod Trail Committee announced Saturday that the 25-year-old Seward musher banned from the 2017 race because of domestic violence charges will be allowed to return to the event.
A statement from the Iditarod Trail Committee said the once-banned musher, Travis Beals, could participate in the race again. The decision was made by the race's governing body, the Board of Directors, after the Iditarod's personal conduct advisory committee verified that Beals had completed court requirements.
Saturday marked the first day mushers could sign up for the 2018 Iditarod. Iditarod officials said Beals had not yet signed up for the 2018 race by 4:30 p.m. Mushers have until midnight on December 1 to register.
Beals did not respond to a request for comment Saturday afternoon.
According to court records, Beals was charged with fourth-degree assault and fifth-degree criminal mischief in a December 2015 domestic violence case. But those two charges were dismissed in April of this year, according to online court records.
The court records also show that Beals attended more than a dozen opt-in hearings of the Palmer Coordinated Resources Project, or CPR. The hearings are part of a voluntary therapeutic court that "hears cases involving individuals diagnosed with mental disabilities who are charged with misdemeanor and low level felony offenses and focuses on their treatment and rehabilitation," according to the Alaska Court System website.
Beals turned in materials to the Iditarod showing he had completed all of the requirements made by the Coordinated Resources Project, according to an Iditarod Trail Committee statement read aloud to the Alaska Dispatch News on Saturday by Chas St. George, a race spokesman.
"In light of the above verification, and the decision made by the State of Alaska to dismiss Beals' charges, the ITC Board of Directors has decided to allow him to compete in Iditarod XLVI," the statement said.
Beals competed in four consecutive Iditarod races starting in 2013. His best finish was 11th in 2015. In his last Iditarod, in 2016, he placed 18th.
Iditarod Chief Executive Stan Hooley said last year that he first learned of the December 2015 charges against Beals in January of 2016 and he said legal counsel advised the Iditarod to "let the judicial system complete its work" and then make decisions based on the outcome.
Then in April of 2016 the nine-member Board of Directors voted to ban Beals from the 2017 Iditarod and for "an indefinite period of time thereafter." The Board said the duration of the ban would largely depend on documentation of Beals' successful completion of all court-ordered rehabilitation.
In addition to the December 2015 charges later dismissed, Beals pleaded guilty to a criminal mischief charge in a domestic violence case from May 2015.
The Iditarod Board of Directors formed the "personal conduct advisory committee" last year while grappling with how to address mushers' conduct outside of the race in light of Beals' charges.
The Board of Directors said in a statement at that time that it would "immediately" start a process of reviewing and revising the Iditarod's rules and policies to better address domestic violence.
Currently, the Iditarod has vague rules when it comes to mushers' personal conduct, leaving much to the discretion of the Iditarod Trail Committee.
St. George said Saturday that the advisory committee continues to review the Iditarod's personal conduct policy. The five members of the committee are board president Andy Baker, board vice president Danny Seybert, musher Aliy Zirkle, former Iditarod executive director Raine Hall Rawlins and longtime race volunteer and former state legislator Gail Phillips.
"The committee is going to be getting a lot of work done," St. George said.