Iditarod reinstates musher Eddie Burke Jr. after state drops assault charges

Just days after announcing musher Eddie Burke Jr.’s disqualification from the 2024 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the event’s governing body said Friday that it decided to reinstate him.

At the time of his disqualification Monday, Burke was facing two assault charges stemming from a 2022 incident. Then on Thursday, the Alaska Department of Law attorney prosecuting the case dismissed both charges, closing the case.

“Additional information was provided to the Iditarod Trail Committee Board today regarding Eddie Burke Jr.,” the Iditarod wrote in a brief statement. “Upon reviewing this information, the Board voted to reinstate Mr. Burke as a competitor in the 2024 Iditarod.”

Iditarod spokesperson Shannon Noonan said the organization would not be commenting further on Burke’s reinstatement.

Originally from Anchorage, Burke finished seventh in last year’s Iditarod, winning the coveted Rookie of the Year award.

Burke wrote Friday on Facebook that “I regret that I did not inform the Iditarod of the now dismissed allegations against me in a timely fashion, putting the race at risk.”

“While I have maintained my innocence throughout this process, I should have informed the race of the allegations against me sooner,” Burke wrote.


It remains unclear when Iditarod officials first learned of the allegations against Burke, and whether they were aware of the now-dismissed charges when he competed in the 2023 race.

The Iditarod has informed me of its decision to reinstate me for the 2024 race. I greatly appreciate this decision. I...

Posted by Eddie Burke Jr - Off The Rails Racing on Friday, February 23, 2024

Dunnington Babb, an attorney representing Burke in the assault case, wrote in an email Friday: “While Mr. Burke greatly appreciates the Iditarod’s decision to reinstate him in this year’s race, he has suffered likely irreparable setbacks by their initial decision to short circuit the legal process.”

“Mr. Burke stands with the Iditarod in its strong condemnation of violence and abuse against women, and joins in their commitment to taking action against violence,” Babb added. “However, he does not agree with the decision to ignore his right to the presumption of innocence, and to have circumvented the criminal justice system.”

The original felony and misdemeanor assault charges stemmed from a 2022 domestic violence call to police, who found Burke’s then-girlfriend bloodied outside a residence in Anchorage, according to charging documents. She told police Burke had strangled her nearly to the point of losing consciousness, the charging documents said.

In an email Friday morning, Department of Law spokeswoman Patty Sullivan said the victim had declined to participate in the state’s prosecution, and the department determined it would not be able to win a jury trial. The timing of the case’s dismissal this week “was based on the timing of court proceedings,” Sullivan said.

Citing its personal conduct policy, the Iditarod on Thursday disqualified another musher, 2022 champion Brent Sass, from running this year’s race after sexual assault accusations against him surfaced. Sass has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime. As of Saturday, his disqualification remains in place.

[Iditarod disqualifies former champion Brent Sass after sexual assault allegations]

The 52nd Iditarod begins Saturday, March 2, with the ceremonial start in Anchorage. The following day, 39 teams are set to depart Willow Lake on their way to Nome.

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Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.