In the latest volley of press statements between the Iditarod Trail Committee and Dallas Seavey, the four-time Iditarod champion challenged the race's governing body Tuesday to prove "its allegation of doping." If it can't, he said, then those responsible for tarnishing his name should resign.
Seavey's strongly worded statement, sent through the public relations firm he has hired, comes after the Iditarod Trail Committee announced in October that urine samples taken from four of his dogs at the end of the 2017 Iditarod tested positive for tramadol, a painkiller the race prohibits.
It was the first time the Iditarod had announced a positive result from a sled dog's drug test since the race started testing in 1994.
"The ITC's failure to conduct proper analysis and due diligence prior to making an accusation against me is not only wrong, but unfair to the sport, the mushers, the dogs, and the Alaskan community," Seavey's statement read.
Seavey, the 30-year-old who comes from a well-known Alaska mushing family, has repeatedly denied giving tramadol to his dogs. He has speculated that, perhaps, someone sabotaged him. Now he says he doesn't even have information from the Iditarod that proves the drug test results came from his team.
"They have sent us barcodes from the lab, but there's nothing that correlates those barcodes to me or my team," he said in an interview. "So we're not looking for minutiae in chain of custody, we're looking for anything that positively identifies me or our team."
The Iditarod says that it does not blame Seavey for the positive drug tests and that it has cooperated with the musher's requests.
But Seavey said that the information he wants is proving difficult to obtain. While he has received some information from the Iditarod, he said it's incomplete.
"We assumed the information had been collected and reviewed by the Iditarod and led to whatever determination they made," he said. Instead, he said, he has been told his requests were "sent to the lab and they're going to pull it together."
In response to Seavey's statement, the Iditarod Trail Committee — the nonprofit that stages the annual 1,000-mile race — sent a two-paragraph statement through its public relations firm. The Iditarod Trail Committee said "it has been and continues to" respond to Seavey's requests and has provided information "as quickly as possible."
The Iditarod did not respond to specific questions about Seavey's statement. It also did not respond to a request for a copy of Seavey's dogs' drug test results.
In its statement, the Iditarod said it was nearly finished with work on Seavey's most recent request for information, which it received Dec. 12.
The statement continued: "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 to not speculate on the circumstances surrounding the positive drug test of his four dogs. The ITC supports not only the canine athletes, but the mushers who are a part of this race, and thanks the community for its dedication and passion for the Iditarod."
Seavey said he believes the Iditarod Trail Committee has placed blame on him. He pointed to an Oct. 23 statement that says the Iditarod Trail Committee "never made a determination that it was unlikely" he gave the dogs the prohibited drug. He also pointed to an Associated Press article written before the Iditarod released the identity of the musher whose dogs tested positive for the drug. In that article, Aaron Burmeister, an Iditarod board member and musher, is quoted as saying that everyone seemed guilty as long as the affected team remained unknown.
"If they're going to make that claim, they need to prove that claim," Seavey said. "They need to show us the information."
The Iditarod has not penalized Seavey for the positive drug test. Seavey placed second in the 2017 Iditarod to his father, Mitch.
Seavey said he has a team on standby to investigate the drug test results, including a forensic toxicologist. He said the toxicologist had come to "different conclusions" than the Iditarod based on analysis of the limited details they have so far. He said the team still needed more information before it could say anything definitively.
"There is likely information there that will help us determine exactly what happened," Seavey said. "It's not just that we're beating a dead horse here."
In his statement Tuesday, Seavey also called for members of the Iditarod Board of Directors who had a "conflict of interest" to resign, including those competing in the race, those who have a family member or spouse competing in the race or those who are defending a race record.
That would eliminate six of the nine board members, including Rick Swenson, the only five-time Iditarod champion.
Andy Baker, president of the Iditarod board, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. He is the brother of John Baker, an Iditarod musher who won the race in 2011.
The 2018 Iditarod starts March 3 in Anchorage. Seavey decided to drop out of the 2018 Iditarod in protest over how race officials handled the investigation into the drug test results. Instead, he will compete in the Finnmarksløpet, Europe's longest sled dog race.