A positive drug test for methamphetamine has disqualified veteran dog musher Lance Mackey from the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, according to a message that race organizers sent to sponsors early Thursday.
Mackey’s 21st place finish in this year’s race will be vacated after the positive test from a sample collected in White Mountain, the Iditarod statement says. Mackey finished the race, his 16th Iditarod, in Nome on March 19.
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Mackey is a four-time Iditarod champion, from 2007 to 2010, and a four-time Yukon Quest champion, from 2006 to 2009. He’s also the only musher to have won both of the 1,000-mile races the same year, in 2007 and 2008.
In the Iditarod’s written statement, Mackey said he planned to go into treatment.
“I’m tired of lying to myself, friends, family, and fans, who have all supported me, rooted for me, or been inspired by me. I apologize to all of you,” Mackey said. “The truth is that I need professional help with my latest life challenge. I am in the process of making arrangements to go to a treatment center where I can get the professional help and real change I need. I’m ready to confront this with all of my focus and determination.”
Mackey did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has spoken openly in the past about heavy drug and alcohol use earlier in his life, mostly cocaine and whisky.
The Iditarod has tested sled dogs for drugs since 1994 and instituted drug testing for mushers during the race in 2010. The decision by the Iditarod Trail Committee to test mushers came after a complaint about musher drug use from the Iditarod Official Finishers Club.
At the time, Mackey was the most vocal musher in pushing back against the testing, claiming he had been singled out because of his use of marijuana, as a cancer survivor, for pain management.
The first Iditarod disqualification for drug use came in 2012, when 38th place finisher Matt Giblin tested positive for marijuana.