The announcement that champion musher Dallas Seaveys bird-dogs had tested positive for a banned substance was grabbed on by animal welfare campaigners

Cycling. Baseball. Track. Horse racing. Now dogsledding has become the latest professional athletic to be engulfed in a doping scandal, this one involving the huskies that dash across the frozen landscape in Alaska’s grueling, 1,000 -mile Iditarod.

The governing board of the world’s most well known sled dog race disclosed on Monday that four dogs are subordinate to Dallas Seavey had tested positive for a banned substance, the opioid painkiller Tramadol, after his second-place finish last March.

It was the first time since the race instituted narcotic testing in 1994 that a test came back positive.

Seavey strongly denied giving any banned substances to his bird-dogs, recommending instead that someone may have sabotaged their meat, and race bureaucrats said he would not be punished because they were unable to prove he acted intentionally. That entails he will retain his names and his $59,000 in victories this year.

But the finding was another blow to the Iditarod, which has watched the loss of major patrons, numerous puppy demises, attacks on challengers and pressure from animal rights activists, who say huskies are run to demise or leave behind severe infections and bloody paws.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals( Peta) confiscated on the scandal on Tuesday.

” If a member of the Iditarod’s’ royalty’ dopes dogs, how many other mushers are turning to opioids in order to force puppies to push through the pain ?” Peta said in a statement. It added:” This doping scandal is further proof that this race needs to end .”

Fern Levitt, administrator of the documentary Sled Dogs, an expose on the care of the huskies, said:” The race is all about winning and getting to the finishing line despite the inhumane treatment towards the dogs .”

Earlier this year, the annual Anchorage-to-Nome trek lost a major corporate benefactor, Wells Fargo, and race bureaucrats accused animal rights organizations of pressuring the bank and other sponsors with” manipulative datum” about the care of the dogs.

Five bird-dogs connected to this year’s race died, bringing total demises to more than 150 in the Iditarod’s 44 -year history, according to Peta’s count. And last year, two mushers were attacked by a drunken man on a snowmobile in separate assaults near a remote village. One bird-dog was killed and others were injured. The attacker was given a six-month sentence.

Seavey won the Iditarod in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and has had nine straight top-1 0 finishes. He finished second this year to his father, Mitch, who collected a first-place award of $71,250.

Dogs are subject to random testing before and during the race, and the first 20 teams to cross the finish line are all automatically tested.

” I’m probably the only person in the world that knows definitively I did not give a drug to my bird-dog. I’ve never utilized a banned substance in the race ,” the 30 -year-old Seavey said in an interview.

In a video positioned on his Facebook page, he said that security was lax along the route and that somebody might have tampered with his dogs’ meat. He added that he wouldn’t be” thrown under the bus” by the race’s governing board and that he had withdrawn from the 2018 race in protest.

Seavey said he expected the Iditarod Trail Committee to ban him from the race for speaking out. Mushers are prohibited from criticizing the race or patrons. An Iditarod spokesman, Chas St George, said that decision would be up to the committee’s board of directors.

The committee decided to release the name of the offending musher on Monday after scores of competitors demanded it do so. Race officials initially refused to liberate the epithet because, they said, it was unlikely they could demonstrate the challenger acted intentionally and because a lawyer advised them not to build the epithet public.

At the time of this year’s race, the rules essentially “re just saying that” to punish a musher, race officials had to provide proof of intent. The rules have since been changed to hold mushers liable for any positive narcotic test unless they can show something beyond their control happened.

Wade Marrs, chairman of the Iditarod Official Finishers Club, said he did not believe Seavey intentionally administered the narcotics to his animals. Marrs said he believed the musher had too much integrity and brains to do such a thing.

” I don’t really know what to think at the moment ,” Marrs said.” It’s a very touchy situation .”

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ sport/ 2017/ oct/ 24/ iditarod-dog-doping-scandal-sled-race