Iditarod reverses penalties on mushers who sheltered dogs amid storm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The Iditarod Appeals Board reversed its decision to penalize mushers Mille Porsild and Michelle Phillips for sheltering their dog teams amid a storm during the 2022 Iditarod sled dog race.

Both Porsild and Phillips sought refuge inside a shelter cabin along the race route between the checkpoints of Koyuk and Elim, approximately 150 miles from the finish of this year’s race, which measured 975 miles in total. Both mushers sheltered their dogs inside the cabin due to the extreme weather on the night of March 14, causing them to lose places in the event.

It wasn’t until March 27, almost two weeks later, that Iditarod officials brought down the hammer, penalizing Porsild and Phillips, as well as musher Riley Dyche, for violating Rule 37 of the Iditarod rule book, which states, “Dogs may not be brought into shelters except for race veterinarians’ medical examination or treatment.”

Dyche also brought his dog team inside a different shelter cabin located between White Mountain and Nome, within 22 miles of the finish. Dyche was fined $1,000 for his violation but did not lose his race standing.

The original penalty meant Porsild and Phillips had their finishing positions changed — Porsild’s finish went from 14th to 17th and Phillips’ went from 17th to 18th. That would equate to Porsild losing around $3,450 and Phillips losing around $1,000 dollars or less.

Thursday’s reversal returns the mushers’ original finishing positions and the prize money to them, but the Appeals Board still left them with a $1,000 penalty, the same that was given to Dyche.

The Iditarod Trail Committee wrote in a statement that three rules, including Rule 37, were enacted decades earlier when race teams were able to accept assistance from various private cabins along the race route, leading to unfair advantages over those that weren’t able to have the same help. The “first come, first serve” nature of arriving at cabins along the trail also served as impetus to create a rule against sheltering in cabins, the committee wrote.

“The ITC believes that nothing is more important than the health and welfare of the dogs and understands a musher’s decision to shelter their dog teams due to extreme weather,” the statement read. “The spirit and embodiment of the Iditarod is based on a relationship of the love, trust, and respect that exists between a musher and dog team. It is a bond that very few are fortunate enough to experience. Additionally, the spirit of equal competition and determination to endure the harshest of weather conditions and challenges must be honored.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect accurate penalties for Porsild and Phillips.

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