Iditarod musher claims threats by the head of drug testing program

Wade Marrs pulls into Rainy Pass Monday.

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - An Iditarod racer has come forward with accusations of intimidation against the head of the Iditarod drug testing program.

In a news release from the kennel of Wade Marrs, sent out Tuesday afternoon, Marrs accuses Dr. Morrie Craig of threatening him. Marrs says that he was told to stop his defense of musher Dallas Seavey, or news that Marrs' dogs tested positive for a banned substance in 2017 would be released.

For months, Seavey has been in a public battle against Iditarod race officials over his sled dogs' drug tests, going as far as hiring a private attorney and public relations firm.

Marrs claims that at the re-start in Willow this past Sunday, Dr. Craig pulled him aside for a private conversation.

Marrs says that Craig told him that in 2017, his team's urine contained trace amounts of a prohibited substance. The release goes on to say that Craig told Marrs, "If his 'workings' within the IOFC (Iditarod Official Finishers' Club) and specifically with Dallas Seavey did not cease, that information would be released."

Marrs is the president of the IOFC, and he is currently in sixth place out of Nikolai.

After that interaction, Marrs says he filed an incident report to Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley and COO Chas St. George.

The release says that later, ITC told Marrs that the prohibited substances found in 2017 were most likely from meat fed to his dogs, and that it did not constitute a positive drug test.

The ITC says those trace amounts of Lidocaine most likely came from dog food, and were so low it doesn't count as a positive drug test. That's what Dr. Craig said he was trying to relay to Marrs. Craig agreed with ITC and says he was telling Marrs about the results because other mushers were asking about a second musher, besides Seavey's team, having tested positive for banned drugs.

Channel 2 asked Craig why Marrs took that conversation as a threat.

"I'm sorry, I was sort of befuddled by that," Dr. Craig said, "and I still am because in no way did I threaten him and would absolutely apologize to him that he took it that way."

St. George said he spoke with Marrs shortly after Craig and Marrs spoke in Willow.

"First of all it's very unfortunate," St. George said, "the timing was definitely a factor in this conversation that Dr. Craig had. The message was probably informing about your dog tested positive, but that dog did not test positive, that dog tested well below positive, and I think that's what Dr. Craig was trying to explain to him at the time it just was not the right time."

Asked for further comments about Marrs' claims, a spokesperson for his kennel sent an e-mail stating, "To focus on Wades current Iditarod race, we are not further commenting aside from what has been released."

Monday in Rainy Pass, Channel 2 spoke with Marrs briefly and asked him about the problems facing the Iditarod.

"We're just focusing on the race and mushing dogs," Marrs said, "and trying to keep that on the outs, for the moment."

Craig has his own problems separate from this accusation. According to The Oregonian, the Oregon State University professor was fired over allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. He has appealed his dismissal to the school's board of trustees, according to The Oregonian.

The public relations firm that represents Iditarod Trail Committee sent out a news release late Tuesday evening, saying in part, "The ITC is reviewing this situation and will make a determination on Dr. Craig’s role with the Iditarod Drug Testing program in the coming days."

Craig says he won't be able to see or speak with Marrs until the finish in Nome. He says he's asked Stuart Nelson, the chief veterinarian of the Iditarod, to apologize to Marrs on his behalf.

"I'm sorry this has sort of been blow out of proportion," Craig said, "and I understand how much tension there has been and hopefully we can go to science-based (talks about the tests) when we get back up to Nome.

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