Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey is shown before the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on March 7, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. His 21st-place finish in the race was vacated because he tested positive for meth. Mark Thiessen/Associated Press


Lance Mackey, a four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, has had his 21st-place finish in this year’s event erased from the record books after he tested positive for methamphetamine while on the course. Race organizers announced Mackey’s disqualification in a message sent to sponsors Thursday that was obtained by Alaska Public Media.

In this March 12, 2008 photo, Lance Mackey sits with one of his dogs, Handsome, after winning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. A four-time winner, Mackey’s 21st-place finish in 2020 was vacated after he tested positive for meth. Al Grillo/Associated Press

“I’m tired of lying to myself, friends, family, and fans, who have all supported me, rooted for me, or been inspired by me. I apologize to all of you,” Mackey said in the message. “The truth is that I need professional help with my latest life challenge. I am in the process of making arrangements to go to a treatment center where I can get the professional help and real change I need. I’m ready to confront this with all of my focus and determination.”

“While this is a very unfortunate event, we hope this disqualification will be a turning point in spurring Lance on the trail to recovery,” Iditarod board president Mike Mills said in a statement. “The health of Lance is our top priority. He is one of our Iditarod (heroes) who is going through a tough time in his life.”

The Iditarod has been drug-testing mushers on the course since 2010, when Mackey posted the last of his four straight victories. Mackey is a throat cancer survivor, and he has admitted to using marijuana on the trail for pain management.

“I think it’s a little bit ridiculous,” he said ahead of the 2010 race. “It is a dog race, not a human race. (Using a drug) doesn’t affect the outcome of the race.”

Iditarod mushers must combat sleep deprivation as they make their way through the grueling race, and methamphetamine users can go long stretches without sleeping.

Mackey, who has admitted to problems with alcohol and cocaine in the past, was asked last year by Graham Bensinger if he found sobriety challenging.

“Well now, I’m not going to lie. I still drink, but I don’t get drunk. I have a couple glasses of Crown Royal here and there,” Mackey said. “I don’t care if I ever see a line of cocaine again.”

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