Hugh Neff - Yukon Quest 2018

Quest status: Veteran

Age: 50

Residence: Tok, Alaska

Occupation(s): Dog wannabe

Kennel name: Laughing Eyes Kennel

FAIRBANKS — Hugh Neff continued to dispute the Yukon Quest’s decision to ban him from the organization’s 2019 races in a YouTube video released Thursday. 

On Tuesday, race officials said Neff’s actions contributed to the death of one of his dogs midway through this year’s 1,000-mile race. 

In addition to banning Neff from competing in 2019, the Quest also said the two-time champion would have to run the YQ300 — a 300-mile race — before he can again run the 1,000-mile race, which runs between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon.

Neff, of Tok, responded to the news with a Facebook post Wednesday before uploading the video.

“It’s just sad that we’ve come to a state in dog mushing where it’s not about trying to improve tough situations, but where people are just trying to destroy people’s careers and lifestyles,” Neff said in the video. “It’s a sad situation all around.”

Neff has established himself as a regular contender after winning the 1,000-mile Quest in 2012 and 2016. But he dropped out of the 2018 race after the death of one of his dogs, Boppy.

“Boppy died of aspiration pneumonia caused by inhaling vomited stomach contents,” the race organization stated in its news release. “Other findings include mild stomach ulcers, moderate intestinal inflammation, mild whipworm infestation, skeletal muscle necrosis and severe weight loss and muscle wasting.”

The Quest’s head veterinarian, Dr. Nina Hansen, told the News-Miner that some of the conditions could have been prevented with proper dog care. 

Neff’s love for the race was on display during the video. He sat in a chair below a wooden staircase in his home, and a Quest banner and photo were visible behind him. 

The former champion wore an Alaska shirt depicting a sled dog team, and his left sleeve was pulled up enough to reveal a tattoo of the Quest logo above his wrist.

He was passionate about the organization’s decision and questioned whether the decision was made by officials motivated to sabotage him.

“This is just a personal vendetta that a few folks have against me that don’t want me to be a part of the Quest,” he said. “I will protest this, but I’m not going to go in front of a board of people that I know don’t like me and won’t respect my word to get them to try to change their minds.

“This is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.”

Boppy, a 4-year-old who was one of Neff’s main leaders, died at Clinton Creek, a cabin about 45 miles away from the race’s halfway point in Dawson City. Neff scratched in Dawson.

The longtime veteran closed the video by saying his passion for the race hasn’t wavered.

“More than anything, I love the Quest,” Neff said. “That’s why I just don’t understand why they’re doing this to me. But I ain’t backing down. No way.” 

Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter:@FDNMSportsGuy.