Iditarod Expands Drug Testing After Last Year’s Pothead Victory


Photo: Screwed US
Medical marijuana patient Lance Mackey has won the past four Iditarod races. Drug tests were instituted last year — at the urging of jealous opponents, Mackey believes — but the champ tested clean. Now they’re expanding the drug tests.

​Drug tests are back this year for Iditarod dog-sled mushers under updated rules that could now disqualify participants who smoke marijuana before — not just during — the race.

The Iditarod began testing for illegal drugs for the first time last year, reports Kyle Hopkins at The Tacoma News Tribune. Anchorage-based WorkSafe set up a makeshift drug-testing lab in a city supply room in White Mountain, the next-to-last checkpoint on the trail. Officials pulled mushers aside and forced them to take urine tests during their mandatory eight-hour stay in the village.
The top finishers all tested clean, according to Iditarod officials, including champion Lance Mackey, who believed jealous competitors called for the drug tests in hopes the throat-cancer survivor and well-known medicinal cannabis smoker would test positive.

“There goes all the finger-pointing and accusations and assumptions,” winner Mackey told The Associated Press when the test results arrived. “They just got laid to rest.”

Photo: AP
Lance Mackey celebrating victory with his lead sled dog, Larry, in 2008

​Mackey legally smokes marijuana for medical purposes in Alaska, one of the 15 states that has legalized medicinal cannabis. With his 2010 victory, Mackey has won the past four Iditarods.
Two mushers toward the back of the pack did test positive for marijuana last year. The Iditarod never publicly identified them, because race rules were unclear, executive director Stan Hooley said.
Hooley wouldn’t say where the mushers will be tested this year.
The 2010 rules said mushers couldn’t “use drugs” during the race, but the nature of the testing couldn’t prove whether pot was smoked before or during the Iditarod.
The board has now changed the rules to say that merely testing positive can get mushers disqualified, meaning lingering drugs in their systems could get them booted from the race. Unlike most other substances, cannabis metabolites stay in your body for around 30 days because your body loves cannabinoids so much.
Mushers can and do apply for “therapeutic use exemptions” to the drug rules. Hooley said the Iditarod Trail Committee is not told who asks for the drug exemptions.
“In general terms, we understand that a number of mushers did apply for the TUEs [therapeutic use exemptions]last year and again this year,” Hooley said.
The list of banned drugs include:
• Marijuana
• Hashish
• Cocaine
• Amphetamine/methamphetamine
• Opiates (codeine/morphine/heroin)
• Synthetic Opiates/Opioids (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone)
• Propoxyphene
• Phencyclidine (PCP)
• “Any other narcotic or controlled substance as defined by federal or state law”