FAIRBANKS — Reasons vary depending on who you talk to, but one thing is for sure — there won’t be a long distance race when the North Pole Economic Develop Corporation hosts the 2013 International Federation of Sleddog Sports World Championships from late February through mid March at a variety of venues from Fairbanks to Salcha.
The Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association’s Two Rivers 200 was going to serve as host for the long distance event, but TRDMA voted last week to withdraw from participation because of a conflict between the organization and the IFSS anti-doping policies for dogs.
Saturday, the NPEDC posted a press release stating the event was canceled because of the lack of interest from mushers outside of Alaska to participate in the event because of the cost of transporting large teams and equipment to compete in such an endeavor.
In its release, the development organization acknowledged the conflict between the Two River Dog Mushers Association and IFSS.
The IFSS also issued a release on the situation, expressing its disappointment the distance race will not be held, but also stating plans are in the works to remedy the situation.
The Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association decided against participating in the IFSS World Championships in September, then reaffirmed that decision on Oct. 1 when the membership declined to reconsider the vote.
The Two River group cited negative impacts on dog care because of IFSS requirements and lack of communication on the part of IFSS as the reasons for taking their action.
Part of the controversy surrounds the list of banned substances for canine competitors, which include anti-ulcer medications such as Pepsic and Prllosec.
According to the TRDMA release, “Race veterinarians for the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, as well as every other mid-distance sled dog race in North America, strongly encourage the use of these medications — they prevent what used to be an expected part of long distance mushing a decade ago, dog deaths during the race.
“The use of anti-ulcer medications has, for many years, been considered veterinary best-practice, and as a result, dog deaths due to ulcers during a race have become a rarity.”
The statement went on to say, “Requiring competitors in TRDMA races to comply with rules which go against what is accepted as quality veterinary care would be endorsing practices which can cause injury or death to dogs; it would be taking a step backwards.”
Since no progress had been made on remedying the situation, the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association withdrew its support of the event.
NPEDC executive director Buzz Otis acknowledged the rift between the two mushing organizations.
“TRDMA raised some valid concerns with the dog care rules as they applied to long-distance races, which IFSS had already begun to look at the time they were raised,” Otis said in the release. “Unfortunately, with an international federation, and a multitude of national governing bodies involved, it can sometimes be a challenge to make rule changes within the window of time we have.
Otis said all parties involved decided it was in the best interest of the sport to cancel the long distance race and work toward having the proper rules in place in time for the 2015 World Championships.
The IFSS press release said it respected the Two Rivers decision, but presented a different side of the story.
“Despite the diligent efforts of IFSS vice president of sport Helen Lindbergh and a positive attitude from the race committee to address TRDMA concerns well in advance of the March 2013 proposed World Championship long distance race dates, TRDMA decided to dissociate themselves from the IFSS World Championships,” the press release stated.
The IFSS press release said the views on canine welfare differ throughout the world.
“With the encouragement and support of IFSS, the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association (ISDVMA) at their yearly conference, held just last weekend, agreed to take an active role in reviewing and modifying the sled dog rules that will support internationally acceptable regulations,” the IFSS press release said. “The role of ISDVMA in the Anti-Doping rules is now being discussed.”