Team of Iditarod Sled Dogs Test Positive For Opioid Drug Use

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
For the first time ever, canine contestants in the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race have been identified as testing positive for drug use.

Several dogs registered for the most famous sled dog race in the world have tested positive for use of a prohibited drug, according to a statement given by the governing board of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. It’s a first for the race, with the dogs testing positive for Tramadol, an opioid pain reliever.

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The team was tested six hours after they finished the almost 1000-mile race in Nome, Alaska, and officials estimated that the drugs were possibly used between 15 hours before the test to right up to the beginning.

Tramadol is prohibited, though the governing board officials say that they could not legally prove intent on the part of the musher, who they refuse to name. Even several board members don’t know the name of the musher, though on board member, Aaron Burmeister, said that only the first 20 teams to reach the finish line are tested.

Burmeister said that this is not a good situation, and particularly because withholding the musher’s name and disciplinary actions makes the entire group of participants seem possibly guilty. Burmeister also is an Iditarod musher, and hopes that the guilty leader steps forward to hopefully put a positive light to this issue.

Because the board cannot prove that the drug was used with malintent, new rulings for canine drug use came out this month saying that mushers were responsible for their dogs’ results unless they could unequivocally prove that the results were due to something out of their control.

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There’s much speculation about the drug use among mushers, as some even believe that competitors may have given the team dogs the drugs. Mushers have their dogs’ food flown to checkpoints where it sits for up to two weeks ahead of time, and someone could have reached it.

That said, Burmeister says that it doesn’t make sense for one competitor to give another a performance-enhancing drug. He hopes that people watching the race do not think that this is a pervasive issue, as it’s the first time it’s ever happened in the history of the race.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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