Norway bound


The high-power, California public relations firm Dallas Seavey said he hired to investigate accusations he doped his dogs in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has made it official; the four-time Iditarod champ will next year run Norway’s biggest sled-dog race instead of the Last Great Race.

Abigayil  Crowder, a 23-year-old dog handler who quit Seavey’s operation in October and accused him of running a “puppy mill,” had been the first to reveal Seavey’s plan to run the 750-mile Finnmarksløpet.

The Seaveys tried to discredit Crowder. Dallas’s wife, Jen, characterized Crowder as part of “an organized attempt by anti-mushing activists” to smear Dallas. But the Finnmarksløpet announcement now marks the second time the Seaveys themselves have confirmed statements made by Crowder.

She’d earlier reported dogs were being abused at the Seavey kennel. The Seavey’s dismissed the possibility, but later revealed they had fired a handler Crowder accused of mistreating dogs. Handler Whiskey Miller denies the accusation, but the Seavey’s concluded it was credible enough to warrant his dismissal.

Jen also fired Hanna Hurt, Miller’s girlfriend. Hurt is not sure why she was let go.

“I can only speculate on why Jen would do anything,” she emailed. “I have only ever talked to her twice. Once, very briefly, in my first week of working for them, then when we were fired. When this whole thing was going down, Dallas was out of the country (in China) and Jen was taking care of the damage control.”

Crowder, Hurt and Miller all agree the Seaveys seldom visited their Willow kennel with its 100 or so dogs. In separate interviews by email and telephone, they said kennel manager Jesse Salyer, a former oil field worker, was in charge of running the kennel and training Dallas’s race team.

“He’s put in a lot of sleepless nights between keeping up with the race dog’s running schedule, running errands, and whatever else might be asked of him,” Hurt said. “He really appreciated having extra hands around. I don’t think he had any say in the final decision to fire us.”

Norway plan

Crowder said Seavey was making plans to run the Finnmarksløpet before the Iditarod Trail Committee in late October revealed he was the musher whose dogs had been found to have been doped with tramadol, a pain killer, back in March. Seavey has denied doping the dogs. 

The Iditarod informed Seavey in April that four of four dogs in his seven-dog team tested positive for tramadol after the finish of the race in Nome. Four of four in a sample of seven leads to a mathematical probability of better than 99.9 percent that all of the dogs were doped.

Seavey in a YouTube denial of doping said Iditarod chief veterinarian Stu Nelson later told him “a person would have to be completely ignorant about this drug to think that it would not cause a positive drug test at the levels that they saw this test at any time line that it could be given. I believed that they had come to that conclusion. That I had been cleared of all wrong doing.”

Seavey said it thus came as a shock when the Iditarod in mid-October announced it planned to add a strict liability provision to its doping rule. It was in explaining the rule change that  the race revealed it had detected doping, but couldn’t sanction the unnamed musher involved because the race couldn’t prove the doping was “intentional.” 

A strict liability rule, the norm in other endurance sports from horse racing to cycling, puts the responsibility on the competitor to show how the doping might have taken place if he or she didn’t do it.

Seavey has suggested other mushers might have sabotaged his team because they were jealous of his success; animal right’s activists might have sabotaged his team to give the Iditarod a black eye; or Iditarod officials might have sabotaged his team to get even for his involvement with a petition demanding the board of directors reverse a rule that allowed mushers to carry satellite phones.

Seavey has presented no evidence to support any of those claims. But he told the Alaska Dispatch News he has launched an investigation into why and how his dogs tested positive, and “in the meantime,” the newspaper reported, “he has hired Singer Associates, a communications and public relations firm headquartered in San Francisco, to help him with the drug-testing issue.”


Since the doping story broke, Seavey has ignored repeated requests for information from, although he has posted in the website comments. He was Thursday texted a simple question asking  “when was the Finnmarksløpet decision made?”

He did not respond.

The Iditarod has a ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 3 and a restart in Willow on March 4. The race takes eight to nine days to complete.  The Finnmarksløpet starts on March 9 in Alta. It is impossible to run both races in the same year.

After Seavey was revealed to be the musher with the doped Iditarod team, he announced he was pulling out of the 2018 race in protest because the Iditarod revealed his dogs were doped instead of devoting its efforts to trying to protect him.

Singer on Thursday announced Seavey’s entry in the Finnmarksløpet on a national, public-relations news wire.

“Champion Musher Dallas Seavey Sets Sights on Competing in Top Trifecta of Sled Dog Racing with Entry into Norway’s Finnmarksløpet,” the release headlined. 

“Seavey has always wanted to compete in Finnmarksløpet,” it said. “Competing in Finnmarksløpet makes it possible for Seavey to potentially become the first person to win an Iditarod, Yukon Quest, and Finnmarksløpet.”

The penultimate graphed said that “Seavey decided to not participate in the 2018 Iditarod due to the Iditarod Trail Committee’s recent handling of allegations that four of his dogs showed signs of tramadol. Seavey is continuing to fully investigate all circumstances surrounding those allegations. The Iditarod Trail Committee did not place sanctions on Seavey and has expressed hopes that he will continue to compete in the Iditarod.”

The lab that did the testing said all four dogs were doped, and that the similar levels of tramadol found in their urine indicated that they were all most likely given the same dose of the drug.

Biggest star

Despite the doping issue in Alaska, the 30-year-old Seavey’s announcement was heralded in Norway.

“The biggest star has signed up!” the Finnmarksløpet webpage headlined above a photo of Seavey.

“Seavey is the biggest long-distance mushing profile in the world at the moment. He is also the musher with the best accumulated results over the past ten years in the Iditarod,” the race announced. “He and his father, Mitch Seavey, have dominated the top of the list in the world’s longest sleddog race since 2012. According to Seavey, he has wanted to race FL-1200 for many years, however, as that would mean that he could not race the Iditarod he has not signed up – until now.”

The  Finnmarksløpet is sanctioned by the International Federation of Sleddog Sports. The IFSS has a strict liability rule. Had Seavey’s dogs been found with tramadol in an IFSS race instead of the Iditarod, which is not an IFSS member, he would be facing sanctions.

The IFSS rules are very clear:

“Athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers found to be present in their dog’s samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to
establish an anti-doping rule violation….”

But the Finnmarksløpet says it got a greenlight from the IFSS to allow Seavey to race.

“The Iditarod and the Finnmark Race are not run by the same organisation nor the same doping regulations,” it said on its web page. “We are subject to the Norwegian Sleddog Association and the IFSS, which in turn are subject to the WADC, the World Anti-Doping Code. We have been in touch with the leader of the IFSS anti-doping committee. They emphasize that the participant has not been found guilty of any misconduct and he is free to sign up for any IFSS race he may want to.”

CORRECTION: Abigayil Crowder was mistakenly identified as Abigayil Fowler throughout an early version of this story.












32 replies »

  1. i wonder how long, specifically, did abigail and whiskey and hanna actually work at dallas kennel? the lack of specifics here, i think. is troubling. were they only there a few weeks? or months? or a whole summer? that really corporate hands off, outsourcing the work , kennel management dog training to handlers etc, is really sad and tragic stuff for the sport. in my opinion. i remember working for martin buser, and his kids, nickoli and rohn, only doing a few runs with the dogs, than taking the main race dogs in jr iditarod, and winning it. it was so antiethical to everything , youth sports, responsibility, competition, and shit, was supposed to be about, i than and still now think that those trophies etc should be returned for thoseyears. when you see corporate mushers bask in the limelight of their fake pr, sponsor engagements, and outsource delegate the work to their handlers, you see them ultimately, i believe, suffer from the lack of a bond to the dogs, and their peformance drops off shortly after , in teh standings.

    • John,
      you are right with a lot of what you speak.
      It just snowed about 6″ of fresh powder and the “mushers” were using ATV’s on the trail…(only one or two were even using sleds)
      The ITC has turned a sport and heritage of dog mushing into a “dog and pony show” for the corporate media to profit off of.
      These modern “dog drivers” and “Handlers” are a far cry away from the harden sourdoughs that once migrated to this great land for homesteads and adventure.

  2. Wow . Did I just see my name or my brothers under doping ?? Someone made huge dang mistake ! Dallas was impolite enough to mention us without clarification and worse yet without permission . Cim and I are respected heavily in the sport 100% clean ,and Dallas used us as a way to clear his name . Nothing else . What Dallas mentioned about board was wrong period . What started it was I pushed for transparency on drug tests . I received blackmail ! I’m not joking ! Direct threats ! And a champion saying he hated me for pushing transparency ! My brother and I never in any way tested positive period . Not even for tainted meets . Witch I believe is a b.s narrative ! I have details . Anyone who accuses me again better do it to my face ! Both me and my brother deserve an apology even if you are a nobody !!! Call me if you are confused ! Ramey Smyth 1-907-841-3914

    • “I received blackmail ! I’m not joking ! Direct threats !”

      Might be time for the FBI to investigate this “gang” of thugs?

      How many of us in this community have been harassed by these assholes?

  3. Regarding your last comment Craig on Dallas “Knowing/Suspecting” of others of possible doping you said this “i have not talked to either of the Smyths about this, but my understanding is that one or the other had a urine sample turn up drugs from hormones used in either cattle or horses, and that it was decided that given the low level of those drugs the most likely explanation for the positive was residual hormones in the meat fed the dogs.
    so it would appear that at very least Dallas did have some knowledge of drugs popping up in drug testing done on other teams” Now here is My thought of all that is happened. Maybe Dallas “Believed” he could get away with giving his dogs Tramadol and then use this as a possible Out in explaining the positive results to the ITC. When it appeared they had left him in the clear he breathed a sigh of relief. The October came and Everything Blew up on him again regarding doping then abuse allegations. He obviously is running this race out of Norway to make some more $$$$$$ as buying land up in Talkeetna ain’t cheap I’m sure and if things go really South then maybe a move to Norway be in the picture for the Seavey’s? Noting would surprise me anymore….
    Does anyone believe Mitch might join him in Norway and skip the Iditarod as well?

    • Mitch Seavey has not expressed any official need to withdraw from Iditarod i.e in support of / allegiance to Dallas. I just am speculating, but I can not imagine Mitch Seavey will now all of a sudden withdraw as well. Not least as he must have known for a long time that his son Dallas Seavey was looking to withdraw from Iditarod to go run this race in Norway. It was known to other mushers long before it was made public that dogs in Dallas-Seavey-team had tested positive for tramadol.

    • Oh, by the way: not a lot of money as far as winnings to win in this race in Norway! Dallas Seavey can probably make that amount of money by doing just one of two of his speaking-gigs.

  4. Rule 39 says cortico-steroids are banned except when they’re used on feet. Dogs lick their paws. If a dog tests positive for steroids, how can the Iditarod claim a musher gave dogs a banned substance? A dog could ingest many tubes of cortico-steroid cream.

    Except for this cream, the other drug bans are 100 percent. There’s no rule that excuses low levels of hormones because the Iditarod thinks they MIGHT have come from meat.

    • read the rules Lisbeth. then get back to me with where it is stipulated the action to be taken in regard to any doping violation. as far as i can tell, there are no penalties spelled out for doping. it would appear a three-member panel of race judges or the ITC board can make just about any decision they want to make about what to do about any rule violation except in a handful of cases specifically spelled out in the rules: “Mushers shall be disqualified for rule infractions involving physical abuse of a dog, or for cheating or deliberate rule infractions that give a musher an unfair advantage over another musher.” and that last clause, “an unfair advantage over another musher” is open to broad interpretation.

      • You’re right that definite penalties aren’t spelled out. Under Iditarod rules, dopers may never be punished or reprimanded.

  5. That you’ve never read or heard accusations about mushers doping their dogs doesn’t make the doping any less true. There are lots of things I’ve never heard of or read which are true nonetheless.

    • We’ve heard speculation about other mushers “getting away with it,” but what Mike is after (IMO) is your “proof” of such. How about giving us the names of some of these mushers, etc.. Just what is it that makes you say that its true?

    • Lisbeth: there is no evidence any other mushers are “getting away” with doping during the race. out of competition? who knows. there is no testing then. if i was in the game, i’d probably have my dogs on cobalt supplements. it’s not on the list of banned drugs, and i don’t think the Iditarod even bothers to test for it. it is, however, on the WADA list — — because cobalt supplementation can mimic EPO in producing extra red blood cells, which of course increase endurance. cobalt use has been popping up regularly in other racing circles. it’s hard to believe everyone in the dog racing world would miss this. and if the substance isn’t on the Iditarod banned list, is it really even doping?

      • Craig,
        “there is no evidence any other mushers are “getting away” with doping during the race. ”
        In light of allegations that have come forward by Mr. Smyth, I would say we truly DO NOT KNOW the results of past drug tests on the top mushers finishing the Iditarod.
        Let’s not forget about Susan Butcher who started the “lie, cheat, steal” paradigm for modern sled dog competitions in Alaska.
        I have heard first hand from a fellow musher who competed with Mrs. Butcher back in the 1980’s and I would say that there was evidence (at the time) she was doping during the races, hence the beginning of drug testing as she exited the lineup.

    • You are correct that I do not know of mushers that have doped their dogs. Neither do you I believe!? What you wrote here however, in your earlier comment, has nothing to do with what you or I believe. You write that Dallas Seavey is of the opinion that other mushers have doped their dogs. I believe this to be a false accusation by you.

      • Mike: you don’t know of mushers who have doped their dogs? how can that be? i know of mushers who have doped their dogs. that said, i agree with you on Dallas Seavey. i have not seen him state anywhere that he thought other mushers were doping, and i have not heard from any mushers to whom he might have said such a thing. on other hand, i have heard from a number of Iditarod mushers who do believe “other mushers have doped.” it’s the dark world of PEDs. a lot of sports have had to deal with it.

      • Craig, while this may hinge on doping in general vs. doping in the Iditarod.
        You’ve stated that you know of mushers who have doped their dogs and seem shocked that Mike doesn’t. I’ll say here that hearing of other Iditarod mushers who do believe “other mushers have doped,” is not the same thing as knowing “other mushers have doped.”
        That all being said, you can give us the names of said mushers who have doped their dogs!??

      • Craig, I have heard mushers accuse other mushers. I think poorly of such accusations that to my knowledge are based on nothing. I can guarantee you I do not know of any other mushers than Dallas Seavey to have positive drug test. And, I can guarantee you that I do not know of any mushers that dope their dogs. Now that I have addressed that, as you have stated something like in the past: let’s keep the eye on the ball, and as you correctly point out here, the issue that I have with Lisbet in this thread, is that she states to know that Dallas Seavey has taken an action based on that he believes other mushers get away with doping. That is a double-false. One, that Dallas Seavey has taken action based on this belief; Two, that Dallas Seavey has this belief. All just empty accusations from Lisbet, to my knowledge.

      • well Bill, that question is almost too easy to answer: George Attla. he was famous for doping dogs up with caffeine, which is a well documented PED. it was on the WADA banned list, then off the list, and now possibly headed back on the list:
        but George isn’t who i was thinking of when i wrote that comment. there are others, but i’m not going to name names. they’re out of the game now. and i’m of the opinion, it’s the past. there’s no sense dredging up the past. all indications were things got better after the Iditarod implemented doping controls. or at least it got less worse.
        where things are at today, i don’t know. the race is moving a lot faster. a fair number of mushers seem to think other mushers are doping. the problem with banning doping, of course, is that it drives it underground, and thus it is more hidden. this isn’t like the old days when former Iditarod chief vet Del Carter and i used to chat about who was doping and with what.
        and as i noted in another comment, if someone is doping with a PED that isn’t banned and isn’t tested for is it really doping?

      • I agree with Bill, Craig. Hearing people spreading rumors is sure not the same as knowing — is it to you? And, that if you have such knowledge, anchored in facts, please do share!

      • Mike: now this is weird. i was about to ditto your observation that Lisbeth has no basis to believe that Dallas has an opinion about other Iditarod doping cases. and then i thought about something.
        go to about 11:15 in his YouTube video and you’ll hear this: “They’re doing everything they can to make me look guilty. Now if you think, this, this, is out of the question or unrealistic that the board would do this, I encourage you to as Cim and Ramey Smyth about their interaction with the board.”
        i have not talked to either of the Smyths about this, but my understanding is that one or the other had a urine sample turn up drugs from hormones used in either cattle or horses, and that it was decided that given the low level of those drugs the most likely explanation for the positive was residual hormones in the meat fed the dogs.
        so it would appear that at very least Dallas did have some knowledge of drugs popping up in drug testing done on other teams.
        does that mean Dallas has, as you state, “taken an action based on that he believes other mushers get away with doping?” of course not.
        but it does mean Dallas had knowledge of other doping positives that were not publicly disclosed. none of us can know how that might affect anyone’s thinking. but it can’t be ignored either.
        so what do you know about the Smyth case?

      • Dallas said that the Iditarod doesn’t like him; they’re out to get him or punish him.

      • Craig, I do not know anything about Cim or Ramey Smith having a positive test. Does Dallas Seavey actually know that for a fact — or in other words: I think that is a question for Dallas Seavey!

        I do know that it is publicly stated by Iditarod personal that tests have been found positive and determined to be traces caused by meat diet fed to the dogs.

        I am assuming this is what Dallas refers to. Not that he is expressing belief that Cim or Ramey Smith doped their dogs. From how I read what you write, you agree with this interpretation. But maybe I am misinterpreting you!?

        As I stated earlier, I do not hold high regards for mushers that are quick to fire of allegations of doping against other mushers without factual evidence. Frankly, I question the objective, intention and actual motive – possibly self-serving – of a musher that has need to spread non-factual rumors of other musher(s).

        I should add that I do know for a fact that Ramey Smith is a strong supporter of strict doping control.

      • Mike: just to be clear here, it would be hard to believe a report of either of the Smyths doping, and i’ve never seen or heard of any evidence they did. i have been told the lab that tests drugs for Iditarod has more than once detected hormones used in horses and cattle that are classified as PEDs. those cases have been handled as accidental contamination from dog food. i believe one or both of Smyths were involved in one of those cases, which is apparently what led to Dallas’s comments. i don’t know Cim or Ramey as anything more than interview subjects, but i do have some friends who know Ramey well and i’ve followed his Iditarod career almost since the beginning. i think he likely would have won an Iditarod by now if he was more competitive. as i’m sure you know, there was a period there from 2008 to 2012 or so when he never finished worse than ninth and was once second and twice third. if he drove harder, he might have won one of those races. but he’s simply no Brent Sass, see White Mountain 2016, or Huge Mess, see Golovin Bay 2014. he confessed to me an interview years ago he’d rather finish second with a healthy, good looking team than win with a bunch of exhausted dogs that never wanted to run another Iditarod. he keeps a pretty small dog yard. that run of top finishes was pretty much with the same bunch of dogs. he fell out of the top 10 when a bunch of them retired, and he had to start building a new team. you could probably consider him the yang to the dog-farming yin of Joe Runyan et al. and Iditarod seems to be at a point where if you’re really serious about winning you need to get into dog farming of some version once again and run that 100 to 200 dog lot to produce a lot of animals to sort through in order to find those 16 truly special athletes.

      • Craig, I appreciate what you write in regards to Smyth brothers (apologize my misspelling last name earlier). And, good on Ramey, for strong response.

        Craig, I do think it is really wrong and questionable that you imply in what you write, that teams that can perform at the top now are puppy-mills. If this is really what is the intention for you to express, it is out there and without any merit. Pure speculation on your end – or back it up with facts; I hope you will be straight with us, your readers.

    • You’re right that definite penalties aren’t spelled out. Under Iditarod rules, dopers may never be punished or even reprimanded.

  6. It is well-known in mushing community, that long before doping results became public to us all, Dallas was looking at running the race in Norway this season.

    • Dallas was mulling over the idea of racing in Norway. He became furious about being the only one the Iditarod called out for dog doping when other mushers were getting away with it. That’s when he signed up for the Norway race.

      • Where do these accusations come from? I have never heard or seen Dallas Seavey make them for sure! And I have no idea where that nonsense come from about other mushers getting away with doping!?

        Dallas Seavey wanted to race in Norway. Then the doping scandal broke. He took the opportunity to announce that he is not racing Iditarod. I don’t approve of his move blaming Iditarod for his choice, but this you are writing is just completely baseless.

    • Then Why did he sign up for the Iditarod in June @ the picnic sign up day? I think the race plans for Norway was just a Fall Back in case the doping scandal broke open on him.As How could he run both that race & Iditarod when the dates conflicted? Someone was telling his friend’s some nice bedtime stories-just sayin

      • Dallas Seavey likely needed to secure the support of his sponsors for what he was planning to do; until then he was signed up with Iditarod. Dallas Seavey not signing up on picnic-day would garner a lot of attention. To my knowledge Dallas Seavey talked about heading to Norway this season, even before the 2017 Iditarod.

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