Iditarod reverses musher demotions, but then levies fines

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Officials with the Iditarod announced Thursday they have reversed the penalties levied against two mushers who were demoted in 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 $1,000 each, the same as another musher who was initially fined but not demoted for also sheltering dogs inside.

Both Porsild and Phillips appealed, and Iditarod Trail Committee President Michael Mills appointed an appeals board to hear their claims.

The incidents happened 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 violating 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 $3,450 less for Porsild and $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 wasn’t demoted in the standings, but he was fined $1,000 after officials determined there were no other mushers close to him that 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’s 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 will recommend and urge the organization’s rule committee to clarify the rules “to eliminate conflicting language on sheltering and dog care during the Iditarod.”