With only three weeks until the 2018 Iditarod, there’s more drama swirling around Alaska’s premier long-distance dog mushing event.
This week, the Iditarod Official Finisher’s Club called for the immediate resignation of Iditarod Board President Andy Baker. The club’s letter to the board, first reported by the Anchorage Daily News, said Baker has “jeopardized the integrity of our whole livelihood through his poor leadership.”
The club calls itself the “players’ union” for Iditarod mushers.
The letter comes after controversy surrounding a dog-doping scandal that caused four-time champion Dallas Seavey to withdraw from this year’s race and a confidential consultant’s report, leaked to news media, that recommended board members with conflicts of interest step down to avoid losing sponsors and trust.
Despite the Finisher’s Club demand that Baker resign to avoid what the letter says will be “negative discourse” overshadowing this year’s race, Baker did not step down.
After the Board of Directors’ meeting in Anchorage on Friday, the board released a statement saying its members had decided unanimously to make no changes.
Shortly thereafter, Baker spoke to reporters about his reaction to the letter.
“There’s so much emotion and there’s so much emotion this time of year, with, the mushers are getting ready for the race,” Baker said. “Everybody wants the race to do well. So I took it very positively. Everybody wants the race to do better, and the board, our whole focus is we want to have a safe race, we want dogs to be safe, we want mushers to be safe and we want a successful race.”
However, Baker said there may be changes coming after this year’s Iditarod that will be in line with recommendations from a December report by consultants with the Foraker Group. Among other things, the report said the Iditarod should replace board members with conflicts of interest to restore trust with mushers, sponsors and race fans.
Baker, brother of Iditarod musher John Baker, says the board agrees but has not yet made a formal decision on the matter. He added that having board members with close ties to mushing has always been seen as a benefit to the race.
Finisher’s Club President Wade Marrs did not respond to a request for comment in time for this story.
Meantime, the Iditarod announced the race would restart in Willow on its normal southern route after the March 3 ceremonial start in Anchorage.