Officials with the Iditarod on Thursday announced that they have reversed penalties levied against two mushers who were demoted in the final standings for breaking a rule against sheltering their dogs inside a cabin during vicious storms near the end of this year’s race across Alaska.
However, mushers Mille Porsild of Denmark and Michelle Phillips of Canada were then fined US$1,000 each, the same as another musher who was initially fined but not demoted for also sheltering dogs inside.
Porsild and Phillips appealed, and Iditarod Trail Committee president Michael Mills appointed an appeals board to hear their claims.
The incidents happened on March 14 as the mushers were nearing the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome.
Both women rode out the storm in a shelter with their dogs and then continued to the finish line.
Later, four mushers filed complaints against them for contravening a rule against sheltering dogs.
Porsild was dropped from 14th to 17th position, while Phillips dropped one notch to 18th.
The drop in finishing position equated to US$3,450 less for Porsild and US$1,000 less for Phillips. Their original finish positions and prize money were restored with the board’s decision.
The other musher, Riley Dyche of Fairbanks, also sheltered his dogs, a decision he said he knew was right after hearing the winds batter the cabin for 24 hours.
He was not demoted in the standings, but he was fined US$1,000 after officials determined that there were no other mushers close to him who would have been affected by the dogs resting inside.
The board also said it agreed with Porsild and Phillips, who complained about differing race rules. The one they were penalized for says no dogs may be taken inside unless it is for a medical exam or treatment by a race veterinarian.
However, that conflicts with another rule that says: “The Iditarod holds firmly that no dog should suffer harm or death in connection to the race.”
The board said it would recommend and urge the organization’s rule committee to clarify the rules “to eliminate conflicting language on sheltering and dog care during the Iditarod.”
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