WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - With decisions remaining to be made surrounding the fate of the Last Great Race, mushers, board members and Iditarod Trail Committee members alike aired some of their concerns at a nearly six-hour-long, closed-door meeting Sunday, according to multiple people in attendance.
"It was a heated meeting in some ways," said current Race Director Mark Nordman. "But what I felt coming out of there is that people want to see this race survive and grow."
The meeting comes amid allegations of dog doping that have rocked the race community and triggered threats of withdrawal from the race by big names, including 2017 Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey.
But that's not all: Outside of the race, a veteran Iditarod musher, Paul Gebhardt, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Jason Mackey was charged with stealing kennels from another competitor.
And it all happened in the last few months.
"It's been a tough couple of months," Nordman said. "Everybody's aware of that.
"But bottom line is," he said, "this event is so much more than myself or a board of directors or the mushers. It's the whole state's event."
When it comes to the race itself, Nordman said, the main focus right now is to make sure everyone is on the same page. And while most in attendance declined to comment, those who agreed to speak with Channel 2 said potential changes for the Iditarod were discussed during the meeting.
They also said this was hopefully the first of more honest talks to come.
"There are definitely trust issues that we need to fix," said Iditarod musher Wade Marrs, "and we need to move forward with that. So that's what we're working on fixing as a group and organization, and hopefully, that can all come together soon."
When asked if there was any likelihood of a boycott of the more than 1,000-mile-long race, Nordman and Marrs both said they hadn't heard of a group boycott, but that individuals withdrawing from the race always remains a possibility.
"There are people who are frustrated with the way things have been dealt with on certain issues," Nordman said, "and there may be people who do pull out, but that's up to them. But if we don't work together, we won't have the Iditarod we love."
Still, people from all parties said they believe the open line of communication is going to be all the difference toward positive changes in race protocols.
"We're just beginning," Nordman said. "This is the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Stanley Cup finals - this is the most prestigious dog race in the world.
"This is a huge thing we're dealing with here," he said, "but as long as the dialogue keeps up, we're all going to be fine."