nome dog yard

The scene of the crime? Nome dog lot/

Iditarod “Saboteur X” – if he or she exists – appears to have had only a few hours to infiltrate a Nome dog yard and dope the team of four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Dallas Seavey in March, according to a new timeline.

Morrie Craig, the Oregon State University toxicologist who has overseen the Iditarod drug testing program since 1995, this week revised the time for administration of the drug found in Seavey’s dogs to cover a span from two to 15 hours before the dogs were tested. 

Craig, who has been drug testing racing greyhounds and horses for decades, also suggested the drug found in Seavey’s dogs – a synthetic opioid pain-killer called tramadol – could enhance performance though it is not normally thought of as performance-enhancing drug (PED).

“They’d run better,” he said.  “They wouldn’t quit on you if they were in too much pain.”

Tramadol is a drug widely used in another endurance sport, this one involving humans. The sport is cycling, and the drug is legal there, but a ban is under consideration given some new evidence that along with helping cyclists fight through pain it might do more.

A randomized, double-blind study conducted by scientists in Europe concluded “tramadol improved 20-minute cycling time-trail performance by approximately 5 percent.

“Tramadol allowed participants to sustain a higher power and greater cardio-respiratory stress (higher heart rate) during the 20-minute time trial than in the placebo condition,” the study said.

The study did not identify a physiological mechanism for the improvement in performance, and it was confounded by the fact that when cyclists were required to do mental exercises while on the drug the 5 percent improvement disappeared.

Iditarod dogs, however, are not doing mental exercises while trotting to Nome. Neither are the racing greyhounds or horses in which the use of tramadol, a drug created for humans as an alternative to addictive opioids, was first noticed.

Craig said tramadol first started showing up in those events years ago.

Whether the new-found performance benefits documented in humans apply to dogs is unknown, given the drug acts somewhat differently in dog and humans. But tramadol wasn’t being given to racing greyhounds and horses to slow them down.

The drug is especially well-known in the greyhound world where it is regularly administered to retired dogs dealing with pain and stiffness.

Zero hour

The Iditarod’s original statement on the Seavey doping put the time for tramadol administration at zero to 15 hours. That created a theoretical, 4 1/2- to 5-hour window of opportunity for someone to dope Seavey’s dogs in Nome after the finish of the race.

A doping in the dog yard is the prime theory Seavey has offered for how tramadol ended up in the four of his seven dogs tested after the race finish.

He has adamantly denied giving the dogs the drugs and charged that someone “sabotaged” his team.

A 30-year-old, science savvy former Northern Michigan University wrestler with Olympic potential, Seavey was considered the Iditarod’s brightest rising star. A third-generation Alaska dog driver, he tuned his public relations skills in reality TV and has been growing a business as an inspirational speaker. 

Iditarod tried to keep Seavey’s name out of its first-ever, publicly revealed doping case. It announced only that it needed to change its doping rule to mandate strict liability because it had a doping case, but couldn’t prove beyond a doubt that the musher involved was guilty.

“Musher X” soon emerged to make an anonymous claim to innocence. That was distributed by Seavey neighbor and friend Wade Marrs, the president of the Iditarod Official Finishers Club. A select and private fraternity of those who’ve made it 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome by dogsled, the Finishers Club later demanded the release of the name of Musher X.

The Iditarod obliged, and ever since then Seavey has been on the offensive against fellow mushers, animal rights activists, the race-running Iditarod Trail Committee and others who he suspects could have sabotaged him.

In an Oct. 24 interview with Anchorage’s KTUU-TV, he said the doping was “probably an opportunistic thing where somebody was in the Nome dog yard and saw the dogs unattended.

“This is most likely to have been intentional,” he said, and probably would have happened when the dogs “were left unattended for 4 1/2 – 5 hours prior to the drug test.”

The new timeline tightens that window down to 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours. Under Seavey’s Nome scenario, the saboteur would have needed to be in the dog lot sometime between 7:24 p.m. and 10:24 p.m. on March 14.

Seavey finished the race at 6:24 p.m. His dogs, however,were not tested until early on the morning of March 15 because he had requested the maximum, 6-hour delay Iditarod allows after the race. Seavey said he spent an hour to an hour and a half with the dogs after the finish before going to get pizza and then sleeping for hours.

Seavey has avoided except to post a comment.

In a videotaped interview with the Alaska Dispatch News, Seavey conceded there were people keeping an eye on the Nome dog yard after the race, but the “dog yard monitors, they can’t monitor 500 dogs.”

They watch well enough to report when one of his dogs has been coughing, he said, something for which the musher expressed appreciation, but they can’t watch everything.

“It’s not uncommon to see a couple hundred dogs” in the lot, Seavey said.

There were a total of 31 dogs in the lot on the evening in question. Eleven belonged to race winner Mitch Seavey, Dallas’s father; seven belonged to Dallas; and 13 belonged to third-place finisher Nic Petit from Girdwood.

Doped in Nome?

Dallas has generally stuck to the view his dogs were doped in Nome, though he did suggest to Anchorage’s KTVA-TV that they were doped before Nome.

In the ADN video, he sounds confident of the Nome doping scenario saying first that “looking at the half-life (of the drug) it is most likely it was given after the finish,” and then later taking a giant step beyond that:

“I don’t know where they came up with the 15 hours,” he says. “The timeline on this drug is incredibly short. We’re talking 1.3 to 2 hours is the half-life. So it’s going to depreciate from there.”

And those half-lives, he argued, were based on sedentary beagles, not trotting Alaska huskies with a higher metabolism

“Of course, if a dog is active they’re going to burn this stuff more quickly,” Dallas said. “It’s going to go through their system even faster.”

He argued the Iditarod should have held a formal hearing on the doping positive so he could present experts to testify on how people should “look at the level of this. This is ridiculous. This was clearly given after the race….What sane musher would give a drug to their dog knowing it was going to cause a positive drug test?”

The answer to that question is simple: A musher who doesn’t fully understand the physiology.

Seavey is right about the short half-life of tramadol. It is a drug processed quickly in dogs as a handout from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine notes. 

But half-life describes only what is happening to the drug as it is burned in the body. Because of the short half-life, levels fade fast in the blood. If someone gave a dog 100 mg of the drug 15 hours before it was tested, and the half-life was 1.5 hours, the drug would fade to 50 mg at 1.5 hours; 25 mg at 3 hours, 12.5 mg at 4.5 hours, 6.25 mg at 6 hours, 3.125 mg. at 7.5 hours, 1.6625 mg, 0.83125 mg at 10 hours, 0.415625 mg at 11.5 hours, 0.2578125 mg at 13 hours, and 0.12890625 mg – a minute amount at 14.5 hours.

Suffice to say that after 15 hours, because of the short half-life, the dog wouldn’t have a lot of the drug in its blood.

Urine, however, is a different matter. All of the drug stays there – either as the parent drug or as metabolites – until the dog urinates. The kidneys are scraping off part of the parent drug and sending it to the bladder. The liver is cleaning out the metabolites from the drug that has been used and sending those to the bladder.

If the dog goes 15 hours without peeing – not impossible for a sled dog used to controlling its bladder for an extended period of time while confined to a small dog box – the concentration of drugs in the urine just keeps going up as the drug and its metabolites accumulate in the bladder. If the dog pees a little, the concentration drops. If the dog empties its bladder and fully rehydrates, the concentration really drops.

How much Dallas’s dogs peed in the last 15 hours of the Iditarod is an unknown, but by the Bering Sea coast, most Iditarod dogs are struggling to maintain hydration, and they often aren’t peeing much along the trail.

Whatever the case, the high concentration of tramadol in the urine in no way means the drugging happened in Nome, although it would be a good thing if that was the case given Dallas’s suggestions on doping suspects.

Clearing other competitors

In the KTUU interview and elsewhere, Dallas has pointed a finger at other mushers.

“I have to consider that as an option,” he told KTUU. “I have my suspicions.”

“There are other mushers that were close to me on the race that I feel have a grudge,” he said in his own youtube video. “They do not like me. I do not want to get into all the details right now…. ”

A doping in the Nome dog lot would clear all but two mushers:  Petit and Dallas’s dad, Mitch, and their handlers. No other mushers got to Nome in time to administer the drug within the proper time frame.

Petit has said he didn’t give Dallas’s dogs any drugs. Dallas and Petit are not the best of friends. The Seaveys and Petit run competing sled-dog tours out of Girdwood, a ski-resort community just east of Anchorage.

But Petit did help save Dallas’s race for him this year.

Among the mandatory gear mushers are required to have in their sleds at the end of the race is their “vet book,” which tracks veterinarian reports on their dogs over the course of the 1,000-mile adventure that this year ran from Fairbanks to Nome because of bad trails conditions in the Alaska Range mountains.

Dallas left his vet book in Safety, the last checkpoint before the finish line. Petit grabbed the book for Dallas there, carried it to Nome, and handed it over to Dallas so he could officially finish. The move appears to have cost Petit almost $5,000, the difference in prize money between second and third in the Iditarod.

Without the vet book, Dallas could not have officially finished, and Petit would have moved up from third to second.

Alternate theory

Dallas has also offered an alternate version of when his dogs were doped.

“In Nome, after, after the finish in Nome, um, we talked to another vet that we’ve worked with in the past,” he told Anchorage’s KTVA-TV. “And um, and yeah, our crew and that vet were working closely together because they (the dogs) seemed…(pause.)…down. And, um, this was, this was something,  that when this whole thing came up, it was like, “Oh, now I see what was going on. They were hit with a heavy sedative.” So we had them on heavy electrolyte. We were trying to get them to bounce back. Dogs that are usually very animated and perky aren’t wanting to get up and eat. Um, something was strange. And it was a short window. We got them on the electrolytes.We got them on all this stuff, and they seemed to bounce back. It’s like, ‘OK, maybe it was just a hard race.’ But I’ve never seen them finish like that, or after the finish be like that. And that was a bit concerning.”

Under this theory, someone could have doped Dallas’s dogs back at White Mountain – the penultimate checkpoint where the teams are required to take a mandatory, eight-hour rest before the push for the finish line – or somewhere along the 80 miles of trail between there and Nome.

Dallas floats this theory in the ADN taped interview, too. He was away from his dog team for most of the eight-hours in White Mountain, he said, and that could have given one of a handful of competitors or their handlers a doping opportunity.

He suggested other mushers might drug his team based on the suspicion “they’re probably already drugging, so I’m just going to make sure that they get caught.”

Where that idea would come from, however, is unclear given that the Iditarod has never before publicly revealed a doping positive. And doping in White Mountain this year would appear to have been difficult.

The 15-hour maximum time for the doping would stretch back to 9:24 a.m. on March 14. At that time, Dallas was getting ready to leave White Mountain. He departed the checkpoint only 11 minutes later  at 9:35 a.m. 

Some have suggested tramadol-laced dog treats could have been dropped along the trail and eaten by Dallas’s dogs, but Iditarod dogs don’t usually grab treats while booking down the trail and at least one other musher have scoffed at this idea.

Veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe told the Alaska Dispatch News that when a vet prescribed tramadol for her pet Labrador retriever she couldn’t get the dog to take it even when hidden in his favorite food.

“I tried to hide it in those roasted chickens and that was the only thing Parker would eat at this point and he still would not eat it,” she said. “I had to put it down his mouth.”

She couldn’t quite buy the idea of tramadol-laced treats.

“Sled dogs are not eager to eat just anything any stranger puts in front of them,” she said. “I’m not really sure how that would happen without someone physically putting some sort of medication down the dog’s throat.”

There are other problems with the treats on the trail idea. Petit was only minutes behind Dallas all the way from White Mountain to Nome; none of Petit’s dogs were found with tramadol.

And four of the dogs tested in the Dallas team tested positive for tramadol. Dallas had only seven dogs left in his team by Nome. The mathematical odds that one dog in Dallas’s team would pick up a tramadol-laced treat along the trail are one in seven, or about a 15 percent chance.

Not great odds, but possible.

The chance four of the dogs would each randomly pick up treats drops to 0.15 to the power of four, or about 0.05 percent.

Other theories

Dallas has also suggested the tramadol could have been dropped into a musher’s dog food while it was being prepared in Nome. Tramadol slipped into food in Nome or placed in treats given the dogs have become the favorite theories of those who believe People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or some other animal-rights group might have tried to sabotage Iditarod, an idea Seavey and some other mushers have tried to further.

“Look at where all of our dog coolers are sitting before the mushers finish,” Dallas told KTVA. “The handlers prepare the food. There’s eight coolers lined up. No security…

“Ninety-nine percent of them (handlers) are preparing their stuff for their dogs with no ill intent. But there’s no security for whether it’s anti-mushing, (or) a musher that I’m racing against, but maybe their handler decides this. The musher might not even know about it.  There’s a thousand options.”

There would actually have been only two coolers lined up when Dallas arrived in Nome – his and Petit’s, or possibly three if Mitchs’ team was being fed again. But even without the cooler shortage, Craig was skeptical of this theory.

The toxicologist sees flaws in the drugs in the gruel theory. The drug tests indicated the dogs got uniform doses of the tramadol, he said. For that to happen, the drug would have to have been uniformly and thoroughly mixed into the food, and the dogs would all need to eat the same quantities of food.

The uniformity of the doses in the four dogs would make a pill more likely, he said.

Tramadol pills, the standard form of the drug, could have been given the dogs to help them rest by someone trying to be helpful in Nome. But Dallas himself has largely dismissed the idea that dogs were accidentally given the drug, an idea he claims was first suggested by race marshal Mark Nordman.

Nordman has said nothing since this started. But Dallas has said that after Nordman’s suggestion, “I talked to my people in Nome.

“I looked into what we had at the kennel,” Dallas said in his youtube video, “and I came back to Nordman and I told him, ‘I know I’m probably supposed to say that I accidentally gave it to my dogs in Nome, but I have to tell you there is less than a half of a percent chance that happened.'”

No one has challenged Dallas’s decision to rule out an accident.

Weeks on from when the Iditarod first revealed it had a doping case and needed to change its rules, that conclusion appears to be the only thing on which everyone agrees: the doping was no accident.

That leaves only two options: Saboteur X or Dallas Seavey.

If it’s Saboteur X, you have to feel sorry for Seavey who now finds himself in the difficult position facing anyone accused of doping in sports these days – proving himself innocent.

Dallas would like everyone to believe this is because a doping case involving the Iditarod is somehow unique, because somehow Alaska’s wilderness, sled-dog marathon is the only athletic competition in the world where sabotage could be possible.

Don’t tell that to British horse trainer Hughie Morrison, who is facing a 10-year ban from that sport (Dallas faces no ban) because one of his fillies was found to contain the anabolic steroid nandrolone.

“I’m the responsible person [at the stable] and I understand that,” he told The Guardian back at the start of summer,  “but I’ve got to leave no stone unturned. I’ve basically got to find the culprit to prove my innocence. I’m doing everything I can to get to the bottom of it. I’ve reported it to Thames Valley Police and I have offered a reward to see if this could take things forward.”

Morrison posted a reward of $10,000 pounds ($13,000). He has yet to catch the saboteur or to get a hearing before the British Horseracing Authority, though the doping mystery surrounding him sounds even stranger than that surrounding Dallas.

The filly, “Our Little Sister, (was) one of the most lowly rated animals in the yard, would have been a very odd horse to single out for doping with steroids,” The Guardian noted. “There were also no unusual betting patterns around the race concerned, in which she finished last.”

Morrison doesn’t even appear to have a motive to dope.

37 replies »

  1. Were his dogs being treated for diareha? I read that the vets were handing out bags of pills to the mushers for treating diareha and that those pills look a lot like the tramadol pills which the vets also had on hand for treating dropped dogs. Could this just be an mix up of the pills? Did the vets give Dallas any pills? It seems like a plausible explanation.

    • the vets seem pretty confident that didn’t happen, and Dallas has repeatedly dismissed the idea of an accident. have you watched the ADN videotaped interview? Dallas says his “most likely scenario” is “somebody had this drug, and was standing there, and the dog yard is vacant at 10:30-11 at night in Nome. there’s not a soul around, and took the opportunity.”

  2. Did Dallas research Tramadol half-life after this whole thing came out because earlier he said he’d never even heard of Tramadol. It’s a strange jump to go from not even knowing drug exists, to supposedly knowing how it is broken down by the body…

      • Well Kiersten, what I would call a strange jump would be if Dallas would have gone from knowing how its broken down by the body to not knowing the drug even exists.
        What is the timing issue that you think does matter?

      • yes, Bill; and one would think that after 8 months anyone with a brain would by now be something of an expert on the drug, and would certainly have found out if it was indeed prescribed for his golden harness winning lead dog in 2015 and whether the drug was ever given and what happened to the surplus tramadol, if any.
        you don’t find it even a little odd that he doesn’t remember what was prescribed for Guinness? i can remember almost everything every prescribed for any of our dogs, and i’m a lot older than Dallas and lacking a golden harness winner.
        i want to believe Dallas.but as a journalist, i was conditioned to be skeptical and ask questions.
        OK, i take that back as a longtime science student i was trained to be skeptical and ask questions. journalism tried to train me to follow prescribed narratives, but it didn’t work. obviously.

  3. Great post! I’m impressed by the research and analysis!

    A few comments, based on my own experience with Tramadol:

    1. When my dog got Tramadol I asked the veterinary about how much I could give my dog. He was 23 kg, so the starting dose would be 2 pills of 50 mg per day, spread out, and 1 or 2 hours before we took our walk. The maximum dose would be 9 pills per day. But the veterinary said that at such a high dosis the effect would start to become more sedative. So we started with 2 pills per day, got fast to three pills, and ended with four pills before he got so bad that I had to put him down. We didn’t experience any sedation at all. Although I don’t personally believe Seaveys story, a late but strong dosis would be consistent with what Seavey told about his dogs in Nome.

    2. ‎Imagine a scenario where the dogs got a regular dose of Tramadol (one or two pills) at or just after White Mountain. One would also expect that his dogs became rather down upon arrival in Nome.
    – ‎Partly from the “happy-go-lucky”-effect. They would trot on with an increased risk of hurting themselves and/or aggravating any niggles or injuries they already were carrying.
    – ‎Partly from the downside of suddenly noticing the wear and tear of a long race as the effect wore off.
    – ‎On descriptions from human use there seems to be a hangover effect when Tramadol gets out of the system. One would expect the same with animal consumption.
    These points are also consistent with Seaveys story, althogh much harder to blame on sabotage.

  4. On page 16 of his book “Born to Mush,” Dallas Seavey said he was “getting concussions over and over again.” He was having memory problems. On page 18, Dallas refers to himself as a “brain-damaged college dropout.” On the next page, Dallas said that although his brain “improved” over the summer, he wanted to stay in Alaska to be with Jen. Considering the fact that mushers routinely fall off their sleds (some even wear a helmet), questions about his brain are legitimate.

    The Iditarod cares nothing about the physical or mental state of the people in the race. They allowed Lance Mackey to race dogs when he was so sick he needed a feeding tube. Other mushers have been sick or gravely injured, on painkillers, and are allowed to race dogs in the Iditarod. The health and wellbeing of the dogs should be of paramount importance.

    • tramadol, weirdly enough, works differently in dogs than people. they don’t get the opioid connection we get, which has raised some questions about why it actually works. but there is some data saying that it desensitizes dogs to pain 5- to 6-hours after administration. it could have been given along the trail.
      or it could could have been given post race.
      Dallas says his “most-likely scenario”….is “somebody had this drug, and was standing there and the dog yard is vacant at 10:30-11 at night in Nome. there’s not a soul around, and took the opportunity.”
      how he can pin it down to a window this narrow strikes me as odd, but the whole thing is odd.

  5. There is another point at which the urine samples could have been tampered and that is the testing lab. I’ve worked in a medical lab for 40 years. I read the protocol for specimen collection, transport and chain if custody and they coincide with best practices for laboratories. There are mistakes that happen everyday despite written procedures. The urine has to be poured off into a container that is required by the testing instrument. That container is then labeled with at least two identifiers so there is the possibility of mishandling. As far as sabotage goes, it would be easy for a tech to lace a sample with an already tested known positive. I have no idea where these samples are tested but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that an activist or Iditarod hater worked in that lab… long as we’re sharing conspiracy theories.

    • You’re right. But the person who may have tainted the sample could also be a Dallas Seavey hater or someone who hates the lab and wanted the Iditarod to employ another testing facility.

    • and how did they pick out Dallas? the samples only have a code. the lab is at Oregon State and is reputable. nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.

    • Deb: Oregon State. it’s a very reputable lab, and the testers didn’t have the code to the numbers on the samples. so they didn’t know whose sample was being tested. mishandling, contamination, whatever we want to call it in one sample would make sense. but in three?

  6. I’m a fan of your writing. I noticed that in this recent post you’ve used the word ‘exits’ instead of ‘exists’. I know you’re short on proof-readers so I thought I’d call your attention to that.


    Sent from my iPhone


  7. The Iditarod can’t prove that Dallas gave Tramadol to his dogs, and Dallas can’t prove he didn’t do it. I think we should consider the following:

    1. In his book, Dallas said that he had many, many concussions as a result of wrestling. He said he was brain damaged but improved over time. Is he still brain damaged? People who’ve had concussions are more likely to get them again. Could that have happened to him, with more consequential brain damage? Was brain damage a contributing factor in the scenario?

    2. Dallas said he slept some at White Mountain. But was he still terribly sleep deprived? Sleep deprivation could have resulted in him not noticing his dogs eating treats (with Tramadol inside).

    2. Could treats with Tramadol inside have been given to his dogs right before he left White Mountain or could they have been put on the trail outside the checkpoint for his dogs to eat as they departed?

    3. We should recognize that a variety of people don’t like the Iditarod and/or Dallas Seavey. Not every villager likes the race. Anyone could be looking for payback against Dallas or the race. Someone on a snowmobile, a tourist, a dog handler, veterinarian, volunteer, pilot, etc. could have drugged the dogs.

    4. I’ve have given my dog Tramadol when he’s injured himself. I’ve never had a problem with him taking it. But, I do put the pills in tasty treats.

  8. Craig, You seemed to quickly rule out dogs eating dropped snacks, potentially with tramadol, while on the trail. You quoted Ms. Jonrowe as saying this is not likely. I’d like to contest that assumption. As you know, I was once a recreational musher. And once I had young dogs find a sandwich on the trail that a snowmobiler dropped. Ever since that day, and for the rest of their sled-pulling career, my dogs would investigate anything on the trail while they were running. And if it was edible, they would eat it. Sandwiches, dead birds, Cliff bars dropped by bikers (with the wrappers on), food left by other mushers. To them it was entertainment and inquisitiveness … always searching for that freebie snack on the trail. I’m not trying to imply anything here regarding Dallas or theories. Just want to say that some sled dogs definitely will eat anything they find on the trail. No question about that.

    • couldn’t agree more with fresh dogs, but run them on a race schedule to the Bering Sea Coast and get back to me. there’s a reason mushers ship a lot of different kinds of food to some of those checkpoints. it’s so they can offer different options to dogs that are dog tired and don’t want to eat. i’m sure one of those four dogs might be like those late Tim Kelley monsters were. maybe even two. i’d be skeptical of four. i’ve watched mushers almost beg dogs to eat on the coast, and i watched Rick Mackey “feed” them with a turkey baster before that was banned. and i’ve never seen many “gobbling” their food on the coast, which you’d pretty much need to get them to do to get a bitter tramadol down before tasting it and spitting it out. and again, if four of four in Seavey’s team grabbed snacks, why none of those in Petit’s team only minutes back. and if you want me to believe that’s because there were only four snacks, i’m not buying it. and how many snacks do you have to throw out there anyway since the ravens and foxes are going to get some quick? and Seavey doesn’t notice these snacks and get to Nome to ask his dad, “what the hell were you doing dumping all those snacks on the trail?” you want me to believe Seavey watches his dogs eat four snacks off the trail and doesn’t notice? obviously you noticed. this is one of those ideas that the more i think about it the more farfetched it gets. yes, dogs will pick up and eat things, and my damn free running dog will find every dead snowshoe hare within 50 feet of the trail and try to eat that. but i also notice.

      • I’m not trying to defend Dallas, but think about it. If you are only a few minutes ahead of 3rd place (and a few minutes away from losing $5,000), where are you going to be looking? Chances are you are looking backwards half the time. You are looking to see if 3rd place is gaining on you. Looking back is common nature for humans in endurance sporting events. And while you are looking backwards half the time, are you going to be noticing if your dogs are picking up and eating stuff? I don’t think so, unless you have another set of eyes on the back of your head. If Mitch had dropped a bag of post-race/post-blood tests tramadol-treats, Dallas’ dogs could have hooved them up in the few seconds he was looking backwards. Easily.

        Also, it is your assumption, not fact, that all dogs lose their appetite at the end of the Iditarod. Of course, stressed-out, pushed-to-the-max dogs will not want to eat. And your examples note dogs that were very-likely stressed out. But dogs that are doing well will still have their appetite. It’s the same with humans. I once did the Iditarod doggy-style (on skis pulling a sled). Was super hungry on the home stretch because I was rested and not stressed. Would have eaten chocolate-covered anything if I had found it on the trail. Can’t imagine a dog in good shape is any different.

      • a world of if-if-if. some dogs will take tramadol, some won’t. this isn’t one dog; this is four. when you sample four of seven and get four positives, the probability weights heavily toward all of the team being doped. so all Seavey dogs grab treats, and none of Nic’s just behind? most of the potential saboteurs you mention either aren’t there or unlikely to have tramadol or in the case of the villager, nobody is going to waste drugs doing this. but ANYTHING is possible. none of it appears likely. i believe the “brain damage” was that he had some concussions, and the doctors thought it would be bad to have more. welcome to the world of sports. and mushers are pretty alert on that last push to the finish after the little nap at White Mountain because they’re pumped up about getting to the finish. but all of this nicely underlines why Iditarod needs a strict liability rule. it’s so easy to blow smoke as to the wide range of could-bes.

      • Craig, you’re going to have to explain how you can take a batched sample from two dogs that gives a positive and conclude that both of those two dogs tested positive!

      • it’s an easy conclusion, Bill; though harder to prove. if i take your half full bottle of coke, and top it off with water; your coke is going to have half the concentration of coke as a fresh bottle of coke. if we now put it in with all the cokes we’re testing, it’s going to be obvious which one got the water. but if i refill your coke bottle with coke, it measures the same concentration of coke as all the other bottles. when all the samples from the dog have near the same amount of tramadol, the only reasonable conclusion is that all the dogs got the same dose of tramadol because there is no half-bottle of coke. now, it could be one dog was clean and the other got a double-dose of tramadol in order to get the similarity in concentrations, but that’s not likely.

      • Craig, you go to great lengths in the article above to explain how a dog’s peeing will change its concentration of tramadol left in the bladder. And then in your explanation of how all the dogs had the same concentrations for the drug tests. The only way those two things can both hold true is under the assumption that those four dogs all peed at approximately the same rate over the time after the administration of the drug.
        While they “may” all have peed similarly during the last part of race, I would find it hard to believe that they all peed similarly during the six hour rest period after finishing said race.

      • Bill: i would expect that when those dogs got on straw at Nome after 1,000 miles, they likely didn’t get up again until the vets came around to take urine and blood. this is the time when i’d expect there to be the least variation in pee because no one is peeing. they’re curled up asleep as they would be in their dog boxes if this were the most exhausting training run of their lives.

      • You are just guessing here, Craig.
        Clearly a reasonable guess, but still a guess, and another reasonable guess is that the whole team was probably drugged IMO. But the question remains, “for what purpose?” A reasonable purpose would be so the dogs could rest easier after the finish in Nome IMO but that scenario could only make sense if it was a complete “blunder” by person giving the drug. I can’t buy the idea that Dallas made such a blunder and it appears he checked with his handlers before suggesting that only a half a percent chance of an accidental dosing by his own people. So far, nobody has stepped up to admit such an accidental blunder.
        Another reasonable purpose might be at the start of rest period in WM but this would be a clear violation of a drugging during the race and further seems to be outside the window of time the experts have given for how long the drug was present.
        I don’t believe for a minute that this team picked up drug-laced treats along the trail. During my own experience, it was just a couple of dogs that scooped up food left along the trail and that was early in the race-further, my own dogs were not what you would consider tired at the time.
        I also don’t believe that this team was drugged to increase its performance. Clearly this is a possibility but unlikely IMO since its not really a performance enhancing drug and unless its results were known by musher beforehand, it would make no sense to be experimenting with such a drug. If Dallas had been experimenting with this drug during training it would have become known by both his handlers and whomever gave/sold him the drug-too many people knowing of using a drug on whole team IMO.
        My own feelings are that some prohibited drugs (anti-inflammatories, for example) are used during training only to keep dogs in training with minor injuries, that might otherwise never be able to keep up and be left off the team. This is a situation of only a few dogs needing such enhancement and doesn’t lend itself to drugging an entire team IMO.
        While its possible Dallas was experimenting with tramadol on his whole team during training but I don’t believe it makes any sense.

      • well i guess if you consider mathematical probabilities “guesses,” Bill. the probabilities are such to make the events likely, just as for your conclusion (i guess that is in some sense a fancy word for a guess) that all of the dogs were doped. when you sample four of seven and all four in the sample are doped, the probability is high they were all doped. the math is way better than that for any political polling.
        as for the rest of this, i don’t think any of it makes sense. tramadol wouldn’t be my doping drug of choice. it isn’t a very powerful drug in dogs and shows a lot of individual and species variation. it’s possible Dallas knows more about it in huskies than we do, and that would change things.
        i do know this about doping in humans: it really doesn’t matter whether the science says it works, what matters is that the doper believes it works.
        i also agree with your assessment that the most likely case is in the dog lot in Nome by Dallas or a Seavey handler. it would be the kind of drug someone might give the dogs before putting them on straw for hours. it could be Dallas or the handler forgot they’d made an agreement to delay the peer hour to 6 hours after the finish, and someone gave the drug 1 1/2 or two hours after the finish thinking the dogs had already pee-tested.
        i could believe that story, but Seavey has said that couldn’t have happened.
        Jenn is big on homeopathics. does Seavey have a homeopathic supply sponsor who he might offend by admitting he administered tramadol in Nome?
        i guess the only other thing to think about is this. Butch Kukanich, who has done most of the study on tramadol in dogs, noted “a significant increase in pain-pressure thresholds…5 and 6 hours after administration.” he’s not sure why given that most dogs don’t get the opioid-like boost of tramadol that people do because dogs (unlike us) don’t process it like an opioid.
        but i guess someone familiar with Kukanich’s study could back their finish time out 5 or 6 from home and give the drug out on the trail to ensure the best-moving team possible on Front Street. i can see someone who won with an embarrassingly small team last year coming in with a small team against this year having some motive to do that.
        and maybe if you know the 1 1/2 to 2 hour half life, you run the math and conclude that the amount of drug is going to be under 1 percent of the dose at 11 or 12 hours and take a gamble.
        i don’t know. but i do admit that after the 2014 finish it’s hard to avoid being skeptical about anything Dallas says.

    • What is the purpose in presenting some pretty iffy, “what if” scenarios in an attempt to protect Dallas Seavey? He was not penalized in any way by the ITC. That would be cause to jump up and cheer in any other doping case in sports if you are the accused. I have been running dogs for 40 years. All manner of races, all types and personalities of dogs.
      If you really can make yourself believe that 4 dogs would pick up four Tramadol laced snacks on the trail and each eat exactly the same amount of drug, and that either Mitch or some demented snowmobiling anti-mushing dude was on the trail between Dallas and Mitch dropping Tramadol treats— then come see me. I have a lot of things I could sell you…….they all work too.

      • For some reason both you and Craig keep insisting it was four dogs that all got the same amount of drug and are both ignoring the batched sample of two of the dogs. It is my opinion that all that can be deduced here is that “at least” three of four dogs tested positive for the drug because no individual samples for those two batched dogs were kept properly. Further, due to there being no way of knowing that all of those dogs urinated the same amounts (after being dosed with tramadol) there is just no way to justify that they each got exactly the same amount of drug IMO.
        I personally don’t believe that any of those dogs picked up any tossed treats along the trail-that just doesn’t pass my smell test but it’s also not impossible that it could have happened. And that possibility is not an attempt to protect Dallas, just a statement of fact even though highly unlikely IMO.
        I have no idea of what things occurred in getting his dogs back on electrolytes, and “all this other stuff” that Dallas mentioned in getting his dogs to bounce back, from a tough race, but I wouldn’t be surprised that hydrating may have been involved (further affecting their urination rates IMO).
        All I’m saying here is that there are just a lot of known “unknowns” involved here and that in no way is any “attempt to protect Dallas Seavey.” No matter how this shakes out Dallas will always be associated with the possibility of his giving drugs during or after the race unless he can prove it was someone else-probably an impossible task IMO, unless someone confesses.

      • John, are you responding to what I wrote? If you are, you’re wrong about my defending Dallas. I think Craig is right about the incident being a mystery. Things we’ve never thought of can and do happen. Maybe it’s not likely, but it certainly is possible that a villager got into his snowmobile and gave some “payback.” Of course, as I said before, other things could have happened. And, yes, I do think dogs would gobble up very tasty treats with Tramadol inside, unless they were very sick and weren’t eating at all.

      • Bill: the concentration in the batched sample was in line with the other two samples. if one of the dogs in the batched sample had been clean, the clean urine would have diluted the concentration by half. i’ll credit the lab with knowing more about this than you or me, and getting the call right. when and how much the dogs urinated only comes into play if they got tramadol at different times. if they all got the tramadol at the same time, the concentration in their urine only works out the same if they excrete similar amounts of urine no matter when they pee. if you want to develop some scenario where treats were scattered on the trail form White Mountain to Safety and the dogs randomly each picked up a treat hours apart, go for it. i’ve heard just about everything else.
        all of which, as a i seem to have reported over and over, is why the Iditarod needs a strict liability rule or it might as well drop the drug prohibitions. it is so easy to stir up all this smoke as to why the musher isn’t responsible.
        so why didn’t Iditarod and Dallas Seavey come out with a statement saying, “this is a problem. Dallas says he didn’t dope. we believe him, and we’re jointly investigating to find out what happened. we hope to find an an answer. but this has also forced us to recognize the Iditarod needs a strict liability rule, because we know now all the smoke a musher with lesser ethics than those of Dallas could create to make doping enforcement impossible. and though Dallas doesn’t like the idea of a strict liability rule – none of us do – he agrees with us that without it, lots of people might start doping because there’s no risk if you can’t be caught.”

      • Craig, I have no qualm with your statement that the lab knows more than I but you have inferred that this lab called it “right.” Where in any statements by ITC, or anyone else, has this been stated that the lab stated that both of those batched dogs tested positive?

        I am not interested in promoting any scenario whereby these dogs picked up any treats namely because it just seems too unlikely, but that is JMO.

      • John,
        I agree, four positive results with the same amount of drug in the bloodstream leads to one solid deduction…the Tramadol was administered prior to the finish in Nome and therefore would have been hard to blame on an “outside source”…

  9. Brian Imus says that there is zero chance that a top 20 musher would give his dogs a prohibited drug knowing they are going to be tested in Nome. Brian, better think about that. The musher knew his dogs would be tested 6 hours after he finished. He publicly stated he knew Tramadol had very short half-life. Dogs given Tramadol in W. mountain might be expected to be clean? Not in urine tests, nor in hair tests that no one thought to follow up with after the dogs tested positive. It lasts for a couple months there.
    I don’ know how the dogs ended up taking Tramadol, but it is very obvious that it was intentional, not picked up on the trail or given in White by some mysterious dude out to get Dallas. Tramadol was given on the trail or in Nome.

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