ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A musher reached an Iditarod milestone on Wednesday and was feted with prizes made from beaver pelts and moose hides.
Meanwhile, the oldest musher in the race has called it quits and a four-time champion has found himself in another cannabis controversy.
Paige Drobney, a native of Pennsylvania living in Cantwell, Alaska, took the lead Wednesday in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. She was the first musher to leave the checkpoint at Ophir, 352 miles into the nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska.
Drobney left Ophir just six minutes ahead of the second-place musher, Michelle Phillips, of Tagish, Yukon, Canada.
Fairbanks musher Jessie Royer had the lead late Tuesday, and was the first musher to reach the checkpoint in McGrath. For that milestone, she was given items that were handmade by McGrath residents, including musher’s mitts made from beaver pelts and black moose hide, adorned with Athabascan beadwork.
The oldest musher in the race, 79-year-old retired pathologist Jim Lanier, withdrew from the race Tuesday evening at Rainy Pass over concerns for his own well-being, Iditarod officials said in a release.
Lanier initially was denied entry into this year’s race, with officials citing concerns over his ability to care for his dog team. Iditarod officials relented and said he could race if he qualified by competing in smaller races leading up to the Iditarod, which he did. More than 1,000 people had signed a petition urging the Iditarod to allow him to compete.
Four-time champion Lance Mackey, of Fairbanks, was racing in fifth place.
The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday that Mackey is giving his dogs CBD oil, which he said improves their recovery time. He said the race’s head veterinarian, Stuart Nelson, asked him not to give CBD oil to his dogs, but Mackey declined because it isn’t on the list of banned substances in the Iditarod rule book.
Mackey is a cancer survivor who acknowledged using medical marijuana during his four-year run of consecutive victories, starting in 2007. The Iditarod later banned marijuana use by mushers, which Mackey chalked up to other mushers being jealous of his victories. He won his fourth championship in 2011, after the marijuana ban was instituted.