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IFSS World Chamiponship Long Distance Race in Jeopardy

Fairbanks, AK - In June, the North Pole Economic Development Corporation announced that the International Federation of Sleddog Sports, or IFSS, had accepted a bid to host the 2013 World Championships.  24 events are scheduled to take place over the course of 20 days next February and March in and around North Pole.  But disagreement over a list of banned substances for sled dogs has put the long distance race in jeopardy.  The Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association meets tonight (Monday) for their monthly meeting.  Members will make a final decision about whether to include a well-known local distance race among the World Championship events.

IFSS, has hosted a world championship with sprint, and distance events every two years since 1995.  In 2013, the organization hopes to make use of a 200 mile course established by the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association. But TRDMA Race Committee Chair Scott Chesney says that doesn't sit well with his Association. “Well there’s been two major problems with putting this thing on," her says. "One is a lack of information.  There doesn’t seem to be anybody dedicated on the IFSS side.  The other things is their list of banned drugs for dogs has been an issue.”

Since 2008, all internationally recognized sports are required to adhere to the world Antidoping Agency’s drug laws.  In the mushing world, the list of banned substances includes antibiotics, thyroid medication, antacids and even some foot creams distance mushers use as part of their dog care regimen on the trail.  Chesney says the regulations raised eyebrows within the local mushing community.

“You know for the foot medications and some of these things, it’s the difference between a drop dog -  a dog staying  home, or a dog getting dropped at a dog drop," he explains. "On the other hand it can be life threatening, so it’s a whole different class of thing.”

The list also includes antacids. Long-distance sled dogs can develop gastric ulcers during training and racing.  Drugs like Pepcid and Prilosec are recommended by Iditarod and Yukon Quest head veterinarians, because they can help prevent acid production in dogs’ stomachs.  IFSS Vice President of Sport, Helen Lundberg is a sprint musher.  She admits she’s unfamiliar with dog care for long distance sled dogs.  She says she had no idea the list of banned substances might pose a problem for mushers planning to enter the longer race. “But when it was brought to my attention I realized that we immediately have to do something," she says.

Lundberg asked the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association to look into the drug regulations during their annual meeting in Alberta.  That meeting took places this past weekend.   “I hope that with ISDVMA that we can come up with an up to date list that all this that really is good for the long distance dogs shouldn’t be banned you know," she says.

During their September meeting, members of the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association voted to dissolve their relationship with IFSS.  But Scott Chesney says there’s still a chance for IFSS to include the Two Rivers 200 on the list of World Championship events.

“TRDMA wants to be a good neighbor," says Chesney, "but on the other had we can’t endanger our dogs.  So, I decided that we would hold off on that to see if anything happened and I have been told by both IFSS and North Pole Economic development that they are working on getting either a therapeutic use exemption or the rules changed for the banned substances.”

TRDMA will revisit the issue to make a final decision during their monthly meeting tonight (Monday).  So far, four international teams have signed up for the World Championship distance race.  Chesney says the Two Rivers 200 will still take place in 2013, regardless of the outcome.