This is a developing story; it was last updated 7 p.m. on February 14
A crisis-management firm representing four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Dallas Seavey is claiming “definitive proof” that he did not dope his dogs last year based on the opinion of a University of New Orleans toxicologist.
San Francisco’s Singer Associates in a press release today said Patricia Williams in New Orleans has concluded “tramadol was administered to four of Seavey’s dogs two to four hours after Seavey finished in second place in the 2017 Iditarod.”
Reached by telephone in New Orleans, Williams said she reached that conclusion based on the ratio of the parent drug to tramadol metabolites in the urine.
Singer Associates said Williams has written a “21-page report which highlights the inadequacy of the laboratory testing protocols for tramadol and the inaccuracies of the opinions of Dr. A. Morrie Craig, the Iditarod drug testing director.”
Craig is the director of the Dr. Morrie Craig Laboratory at Oregon State University, where the Iditarod sends the urine of Iditarod dogs to be tested. He is considered a national authority on canine and equine doping. A professor of toxicology, he was named Oregon Scientist of the year in 1996 and inducted into the Greyhound Hall of Fame for his work in helping to clean up doping in that sport.
“He chronicled detection and clearance times of legitimate medications in greyhounds in 1995 and again in 2007,” according to the Greyhound Hall. “(His) research revealed foreign substances in the food chain resulting in positive tests that did not affect racing ability and thus sweeping changes were made in racing laws and policies in several states. He received a Special Achievement Award in 1991 from the NGA (National Greyhound Association) for his work in establishing the drug testing program.”
Craig contends the time of doping for Seavey’s dogs cannot be narrowed precisely because of the wide variations in the normal accumulation tramadol and metabolites in the bladder of canines. Since the doping of Seavey’s dogs was first revealed, he has stuck to the position that the tramadol could have been administered any time from two to 15 hours before the drug test administered six hours after Seavey finished the Iditarod.
Seavey first suggested doping in the two- to four-hour post-race period in a videotaped interview with the Anchorage Daily News in late October.
The “most likely scenario,” he said then, was that “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.”
Dallas was reportedly asleep by then after going for some post-race pizza. Where other members of the Seavey entourage were at the time is unknown. Mushers finishing the Iditarod regularly have handlers keeping an eye on their dogs.
The only dog teams in the Nome dog lot at the time Seavey’s toxicologist alleges the doping took place were those belonging to Seavey; his dad Mitch, the winner of the 2017 race; and Nic Petit of Girdwood, the third-place finisher.
Bill Dickinson from Grand Rapids, Mich., who was working the Nome finishing chute of the 1,000-mile race and was regularly in and out of the nearby dog yard at the time, has said he is skeptical of the sabotage claim.
In a November interview with craigmedred.news, Dickinson said he was having a hard time buying 30-year-old Dallas’s public suggestions that there were a lot of people in and around the dog yard who could have slipped a pain-killing drug to the dogs.
“I didn’t see anybody doing anything with the dogs,” said Dickinson, who described a quiet dog yard all through the evening of March 14.
Williams said her full analysis of how she arrived at the timeline narrowing the time for the administration of the tramadol is in the hands of Clint Campion, the Anchorage attorney who represents Dallas. The full report is now available here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/arc-wordpress-client-uploads/adn/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/14015034/SeaveyWilliams.pdf
Singer claimed “the administration of tramadol to Seavey’s dogs after the 2017 Iditarod was potentially harmful to his dogs and would not have provided any competitive advantage to Seavey.”
There is a debate within the veterinary community about what tramadol does to dogs. It has normally been prescribed as a pain killer, and Seavey has said it was prescribed for his prized lead dog Guinness after a surgery some years ago.
Butch Kukanich is a scientist at Kansas State University who has been involved in much of the research on the drug. When given to healthy greyhounds, he reported in a 2011 study, “tramadol was well tolerated, and a significant increase in pain-pressure thresholds was evident five and six hours after administration.”
In an interview with craigmedred.news, he said tramadol – a synthetic opioid – does not, however, behave in canines as it does in humans. The dogs, he said, do not respond to it as if it is an opioid.
He described tramadol in dogs as having a more ““Cymbalta-like effect.”
Cymbalta is an anti-depressant drug now widely prescribed to treat fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder marked by widespread muscle pain and tenderness, and overwhelming tiredness. Dogs nearing the end of the Iditarod in Nome are often visibly dealing with overwhelming tiredness and tender muscles.
Williams said she was not paid to conduct the study for Dallas. She said in a message to craigmedred.news that her services were volunteered.
“I rode in the Iditarod 2017 as an Iditarider and brought three of my grandchildren who also rode,” she said. “I bid and won four mushers. I believe this race embodies the very spirit of Alaska and its wonderful citizens including the beautiful, athletic huskies.”
It did, however, note she recommended someone “convene an independent investigation to determine who administered tramadol to Seavey’s dogs.” That has earlier been suggested by others but has not happened.
The Iditarod Trail Committee issued a statement saying it was reviewing Seavey’s media statement and planning to “request any relevant documents created by Dallas’ team to investigate further.” It also continued its efforts to make peace, saying “the ITC wants to re-emphasize that it does not place blame on Dallas Seavey” and won’t speculate on how the dope got in his dogs.
Dallas, meanwhile, declared himself fully vindicated on the opinion of the toxicologist he hired.
“I am looking forward to putting this debacle by ITC behind me,” he is quoted as saying in the press release. ” My name is cleared, but for the future of the sport I call on the ITC to improve its processes and place a higher value on preserving integrity and fairness for all mushers and dogs in the sport of sleddog racing.”
The full press release follows:
Four Time Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey Clears Cloud of Suspicion in Doping Scandal
Anchorage—Four time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey has definitive proof that demonstrates the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) wrongly tied his name to dog doping allegations in the 2017 Iditarod.
An independent forensic drug testing expert has reviewed the documents provided by the ITC and has reached the following conclusions:
- Tramadol was administered to four of Seavey’s dogs two to four hours after Seavey finished in second place in the 2017 Iditarod.
- The dosing of Seavey’s dogs after the completion of the 2017 Iditarod supports intentional doping of his dogs by an unknown third party.
- The administration of Tramadol to Seavey’s dogs after the 2017 Iditarod was potentially harmful to his dogs and would not have provided any competitive advantage to Seavey.
These facts constitute clear and convincing evidence that Seavey did not dope his dogs. Even the ITC, in January this year, publically acknowledged in the Anchorage Daily News that the organization did not have documents readily available and has had to gather them: “The ITC has been and continues to respond to Seavey’s requests and has provided information as quickly as possible.” The statement continued, “The ITC wants to re-emphasize that it does not place blame on Dallas Seavey regarding the positive urine drug test results in the canine team and will continue to not speculate on the circumstances surrounding the positive drug test of his four dogs.”
Seavey has completed the Iditarod 11 times, winning the race four times (2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016). Seavey estimates that his dogs have been tested between 15 to 20 times by the Iditarod Trail Committee over the past decade, and he has never had a positive test before. Seavey reiterated that he believes the ITC has mishandled this process from the beginning and wants the public to understand that he did not administer any banned substance to his dogs.
Seavey is frustrated that the ITC did not undertake an independent review of the drug testing documents before releasing his name in connection with the positive test results. The ITC provided Seavey with the drug testing documents only after multiple requests. The documents provided by the ITC were provided to Dr. Patricia M. Williams, a renowned drug toxicology expert, who conducted an independent review.
On February 5, 2018, Dr. Williams issued a 21 page report which highlights the inadequacy of the laboratory testing protocols for Tramadol and the inaccuracies of the opinions of Dr. A. Morrie Craig, the Iditarod drug testing director. Based upon her review of the documents provided to Seavey by the ITC, Dr. Williams recommends that the ITC take the following steps:
- Convene an independent investigation to determine who administered Tramadol to Seavey’s dogs.
- Review Iditarod security measures to ensure the integrity of the Iditarod and the safety of Iditarod dogs and mushers.
- Review the drugs identified on the handwritten sheet provided by the ITC which are not associated with Seavey’s dogs.
“I strongly stand behind drug testing as it is an important procedure to ensuring the integrity of the sport and the safety of the dog athletes, but the ITC needs to implement its drug testing program with transparency and standards,” said Seavey.
“I am looking forward to putting this debacle by ITC behind me. My name is cleared, but for the future of the sport I call on the ITC to improve its processes and place a higher value on preserving integrity and fairness for all mushers and dogs in the sport of sleddog racing,” said Seavey. “I am ready to get back to doing what I love and do best—being with my dogs on the trail.”
Dallas Seavey will continue to participate in the sport of sleddog racing, expanding his experiences this March by accomplishing his longtime goal of competing abroad. Seavey and his dogs will compete for the first time in Norway’s Finnmarksløpet onMarch 9.
Editor’s note: Some of the comments posted here in the past 24 hours were removed because they were nothing more than unsubstantiated personal attacks on Patricia Williams. Commenters are reminded to be civil. Ms.Williams should, at the very least, be credited with good intentions. Questions as to why she decided to get involved are obviously valid. I think she has answered those by noting that she is a fan, not a paid consultant. Certainly everyone can have a good debate about whether that makes any potential biases (and everyone has them) for better or worse. The science here, unfortunately, is open to interpretation. There are no scientifically established protocols for determining time of drug administration based on the quantities of tramadol and its metabolites in the urine of canines. Morrie Craig offered one professional opinion on timing. Ms. Williams offered another. They are professional opinions, but they remain opinions. Everyone is entitled to those, which is why comments are encouraged on all the reporting at craigmedred.news.