For the first time in the history of the world's most famous sled dog race, several of the high-performance animals have tested positive for a prohibited drug—but race officials have refused to name the musher involved. Several dogs tested positive for the opioid pain reliever tramadol, the governing board of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race said in a statement, per the AP. The team was tested six hours after finishing the nearly 1,000-mile race in Nome in March, officials said. They estimate the drug could have been administered between 15 hours before the test and right before it. Iditarod spokesman Chas St. George said in an email the musher's name isn't being released based on an attorney's advice and because of the unlikelihood that race organizers could prove the musher intentionally administered the drug.
The Iditarod began testing sled dogs for prohibited substances in 1994, with dogs on all teams subject to random testing; testing in Nome for top finishing teams, however, isn't random but expected. As to why a musher would give dogs prohibited drugs when testing is expected in Nome, there's been speculation competitors could administer the drug: Mushers fly their team's dog food to checkpoints along the trail up to two weeks in advance, and it sits there until mushers arrive at the checkpoint and use it. But Iditarod board member and musher Aaron Burmeister, isn't buying that theory. "As a musher, why would another musher give their competitor a performance-enhancing drug?" he said, adding he hopes people "look at the big picture" and realize "this is an isolated incident." St. George said the musher will be allowed to participate in next year's race and won't face any disciplinary actions.