Yukon Quest upholds Neff's ban from 2019 race

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A three-person review board has upheld former Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff’s censure from next year’s race after a dog died on his team this year.

Hugh Neff released a video in response to the Yukon Quest barring him from racing in 2019. (Courtesy Hugh Neff)

The race issued a statement Tuesday morning, saying that after a two-day informal hearing, the third-party review board, decided to uphold the censure. The hearing, requested by Neff, which took place June 14 and June 20 in Fairbanks, included confidential testimony, but it wasn’t enough, the race says, to provide clear and convincing evidence to overturn the censure.

The board, made up of one musher, one veterinarian, and one community member, voted unanimously to uphold Neff’s censure. The censure says Neff is not eligible to race in the YQ300 and Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race in 2019, and that he must run the YQ300 before being allowed to enter the 1,000-mile long race in the future.

The Yukon Quest’s release says the makeup of the board was decided based on Neff’s request to include veterinarians and mushers.

The censure was announced on April 24, after a necropsy on Neff’s dog, Boppy, raised concerns about dog care. The head of the race rules committee at the time said that while aspiration pneumonia was Boppy’s official cause of death during the 2018 Yukon Quest, other issues with his health raised concern.

Neff called the censure a “personal vendetta,” and vowed to appeal the decision. The two-day hearing was a result of that formal request.

"I think as a race, we tried to provide as fair a process as we could, and I hope that Hugh feels like he could agree," said John Dixon, the race's Alaska board president.

When we reached out to Hugh Neff for his comments on the ruling, Neff said he had issues with the hearing itself.

"The entire hearing was not what we thought it would be," Neff said. "We thought it would be fair and just basically it was unorganized and flawed from the start. We love the Quest that we believe in and that's the trail, the dogs, the volunteers along the way."

The 2019 Yukon Quest will start Feb. 2 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, bound for Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Iditarod Trail Committee also released a statement today, saying it had been made aware of Neff's censure from the Yukon Quest.

In a press release, the ITC stated that the ITC Qualifying Review Board reserves the right to reject any entrant that does not conform with or demonstrate humane animal care practices and does not exemplify the spirit and principles of the Iditarod Trail Committee.

It further says that the decision to reject an entrant by the QRB is final and binding.

The ITC will begin signing up mushers for the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, June 30th at 9 a.m.

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