The following decision is issued by the Appeals Board (Board) appointed by the President of the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC), Michael Mills, pursuant to Rule 37 of the Official Rules of the Iditarod International Sled Dog Race (Iditarod).
The Board respects the judgment call made by Ms. Porsild and Ms. Phillips to shelter their dog teams indoors during the severe weather conditions on the evening of March 14, 2022. For their safety and welfare of their respective teams, the mushers made the only choice available from their perspective.
The Board has reviewed the facts in light of the Official Rules as currently drafted and decided to reverse the penalties, reinstate Ms. Porsild’s and Ms. Phillips’ race standings and award them the purse winnings corresponding to their original standing: 14th place Mille Porsild, 15th place Matt Hall, 16th place Mitch Seavey, 17th place Michelle Phillips, and 18th place Lev Shvarts.
The Board has decided to instead penalize Ms. Porsild and Ms. Phillips for violation of Rule 37 by imposing a monetary fine of $1,000 each, which is equivalent to the penalty assessed to Riley Dyche. Mr. Dyche also violated Rule 37 by sheltering with his dogs during similar weather conditions in the Nome Kennel Club shelter cabin.
The Board acknowledges and agrees with Ms. Porsild and Ms. Phillips about the potential for conflict and confusion between the text of Rule 37 and Rule 42. Therefore, the Board recommends and urges the ITC Rules Committee to revisit these Rules and make all efforts to clarify the Rules to eliminate conflicting language on sheltering and dog care during the Iditarod.
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 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. It should be noted that Rules 28, 31 and 37, which prohibit various forms of sheltering and outside assistance to mushing teams, were enacted decades earlier in response to certain mushers accepting assistance and shelter from many noble and friendly Alaskan locals during prior races. The assistance and shelter were not universally provided to all mushers, and often resulted in a competitive advantage for any musher who accepted such assistance and shelter. In addition, there is a very limited capacity in designated remote public shelter cabins for housing multiple teams at one time, which could also give an unfair competitive advantage in a “first come, first serve” scenario. The ITC Rules Committee enacted these three (3) Rules to level the playing field and safeguard a fair competition allowing all mushing teams to compete under equal conditions. This ensured that each team would finish solely on merit, skill, preparation, and determination.