Sometimes the snow comes down in June … "I believe it could have been sabotage."
Sometimes the sun goes around the moon … "Why would I give my dogs a prohibited substance when I knew they would be tested at the finish?"
You save the best for last … "I was blindsided. The Iditarod has done nothing to protect me."
Yes, it sometimes snows in the spring. It is certainly possible for sabotage to happen in the Iditarod. But it is much more difficult than folks are suggesting.
Rule out injecting tramadol into a frozen food drop. Four dogs would have had to find that injected drop and divide it amongst themselves to get enough in their systems to test positive.
Dallas Seavey finished the Iditarod in the middle of the night. There were lots of people around his dogs for the first couple of hours. Many of them were Seavey handlers and friends. Seavey says he went to bed and the dogs were left alone, but the dogs were never alone for the next six or eight hours. Nick Petit was in, and Joar Ulsom and Jessie Royer were arriving. I am not ruling out sabotage, but I think Seavey must look at his own entourage.
He alludes to competitors who dislike him, but the only competitor around him prior to the urine test was Petit — that man who saved Seavey from a likely penalty for arriving in Nome without his mandatory veterinary book. Petit brought it to Seavey from the Safety checkpoint. If it was sabotage, it is best to look at home.
The sun never goes around the moon, but at times the issue may be confused enough to make it seem so.
Seavey was participating in a voluntary blood test to be taken immediately after the finish. He brings that up in the context of why it made no sense for him to administer a prohibited substance to his dogs. To clarify — it was a blood test, not a test to check the presence of prohibited substances.
Prior to the release of Seavey's name, we had a statement from "Musher X." This statement indicated that drug protocol had not been followed, that samples had been mislabeled.
The truth is that testing protocol was followed to the letter. Four samples were taken. All were witnessed and signed for. Iditarod dogs are identified by a number on a collar tag, not by name. All samples tested positive for high concentrations of tramadol. The inference was that the drug was administered in the Nome dog yard, in Safety or both. However, the test in no way can define that conclusively.
A musher who was contacted by a race organization and told that his team had produced a positive drug test would immediately dig deep to find out why. Seavey is a very thorough guy. I trust he investigated this issue seriously and at length. Seven months after the fact is not a good time to begin an investigation. The Iditarod gave us the fact of four dogs testing positive for tramadol; Seavey needs to give us something besides innuendos and supposition. He is the man closest to this dog team.
In his video response to all of this, Seavey saved his best for last: "I was blindsided. The Iditarod has done nothing to protect me." If I can find fault with the Iditarod Trail Committee in this case, it is because of its protection of Seavey. The ITC only released Seavey's name because the Iditarod Official Finishers Club forced its hand.
Blindsided? You truly could not have expected the detection of a prohibited opioid to go unreported. A race organization is not supposed to protect, nor should it try to prove innocence in the face of a violation. As is the case in an Alaska fish and game violation, the proof-of-innocence burden is on the accused.
Seavey stated he wanted the Iditarod to release all of the information much earlier. He had the same information. He could have released it himself at any time.
I can see nothing in this blown-out-of-proportion case that attaches any fault to the Iditarod Trail Committee. I want to believe Seavey. He seems like an upstanding guy. I also wanted to believe Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds. Dallas, give me something to hang my hat on, and let's move on.
The Iditarod is a good race. There are internal issues, the same as with any other large organization. Some mushers don't like the Iditarod rules, the board of directors or the perceived arrogance of the organization. So, choose not to enter, or be proactive and go to the board meetings with a strongly worded proposal such as what just came out of the recent Official Finishers Club meeting. You never get all of what you ask for, but you may get something.
None of us are too big to slip under the bus. Should we entertain that thought, then perhaps we should take a cue from Theodore Roosevelt. At the end of the day he would sometimes go outside and look up to the stars and the universe. When he felt small enough, he would go inside. "Now I can sleep."
John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. He has entered one Iditarod and his wife, Zoya DeNure, has participated in seven.