Pre-race drug test conversation 'completely unexpected' Marrs says

MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - A pre-race conversation with the race official in charge of toxicology was completely unexpected, said Iditarod musher Wade Marrs, after pulling into McGrath in fourth position Tuesday evening.

Wade Marrs checks in to McGrath Tuesday evening, after his kennel released a statement alleging the race's chief toxicologist confronted him at the Willow re-start. (KTUU)

Marrs, the president of the Iditarod Official Finishers' Club, told Channel 2 he had never spoken with Dr. Morrie Craig, that he could remember, before Craig approached him at the race re-start in Willow for the private conversation, which Marrs interpreted to be a threat to release information about a drug test of his team after last year’s Iditarod.

[Iditarod musher claims threats by the head of drug testing program]

“I don’t know if he exactly meant it as a threat or a warning. I see where you could take it either way,” Marrs said Tuesday evening in McGrath, where he declared his 24-hour layover.

“He just came up and said, ‘I know you guys are planning on talking about this and digging into this and I gotta protect myself, and we’ll put your name out if you guys dig into it,’ and things like that,” Marrs told Channel 2, continuing, “I don’t remember exactly what all he said.”

Marrs said he had been hoping to talk about the issue after the race.

“I was just baffled that it even came up,” Marrs said. “That’s what I said to Mark (Nordman, race marshal), let’s have the conversation, but let’s have it in Nome, after I’m done dealing with all of this, when I can think about it.”
Nordman said he, too wants to wait to address the controversy until the race is over.

“My main focus right now is the race. The dogs, the mushers, making sure all these communities love what we do,” Nordman said shortly before Marrs pulled in to McGrath. “And at this point, I’m just putting everything off until we get to Nome,” he continued.

There are other issues to be addressed in Nome once the mushers arrive, Marrs said.

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.

Marrs, too, is looking forward to that conversation.

“It is what it is, and I look forward to sitting down with Morrie and having a talk with him and straightening it out, man to man I guess, if you want to say it that way.”

Rebecca Palsha and Patrick Enslow also contributed to this report.

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