Latrobe attorney, Iditarod record-holder on dog-doping: 'There should be repercussions'
Tim Hewitt of Unity knows how grueling it is to complete the Iditarod Trail Invitational: he is the current record-holder for finishing the northern route on foot.
And he doesn't have sympathy for cheaters.
“If it's a banned substance, there should be repercussions for that,” Hewitt said of accusations recently leveled against four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey, who on Monday denied that he administered banned drugs to his dogs in this year's race and said he has withdrawn from the 2018 race in protest of the allegation.
The Iditarod Trail Committee identified him as the musher who had four dogs test positive for tramadol, a banned opioid pain reliever after finishing the race last March in Nome, according to The Associated Press.
Hewitt, a Latrobe attorney, said he hadn't spoken to anyone specifically regarding the allegations, but “the dogs are the athletes,” he said. “So I don't really see any distinction between that and drug-testing humans in a human-powered race.”
Participants traversing the trail on foot are not tested, Hewitt said.
“But it wouldn't surprise me to see that coming, maybe in all sports,” he said.
Veteran Alaskan journalist Craig Medred, who has covered the Iditarod for years, wrote on his CraigMedred.news blog that according to Iditarod officials, “Seavey denied giving the drug to four dogs, and argued it made no sense for him to (do) so because he didn't think tramadol would provide a competitive advantage.”
Hewitt said he is not so sure.
“To me, reading it as an outsider, Tramadol causes the dogs to have a better recovery period,” he said. “In their race, there's a mandatory holdover about 77 miles from the finish line. So getting the dogs some extra rest before that final stretch, tactically, I suppose would let you run them hard — really, really hard — to the final safety rest and then run them hard right into (the finish line in) Nome.”
According to an Oct. 9 press release from the Iditarod committee, Seavey told race officials that it made no sense for him to administer the drug to his dogs so near the end of the race, knowing that they would be tested. Officials ultimately chose not to sanction Seavey — they noted in the press release that they could not prove he intended to cheat — but rather to rewrite their canine drug testing rule to be less ambiguous.
“I think there are probably a lot of questions and a basis for legal challenges,” Hewitt said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.