ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Every human now running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will be tested for alcohol and illegal drugs on the trail for the first time ever — a change defending champion Lance Mackey believes is directed at him.
"I know for a fact," said the three-time winner. Mackey, who has been open about using medical marijuana on the trail, Tuesday was among the early front-runners of the 1,100-mile race, which began with 71 teams Sunday in Willow. Canada's Sebastian Schnuelle was in the lead, arriving first at the Athabascan village of Nikolai, 236 miles into the race. Mackey was eighth.
Four mushers scratched Tuesday.
Race organizers say a musher who tests positive could face disqualification, ineligibility from future races or both.
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"It's not going to be random," said Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee.
Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who is seeking his fourth consecutive win, said other competitors have stated that his use of pot gives him an edge in the trek to Nome, which he adamantly denies.