Alaska’s famed Iditarod is set to begin amid turbulent year

Alaska’s famed Iditarod is set to begin amid turbulent year
FILE – In this March 1996, file photo, a musher drives his team across the frozen Norton Sound near Nome, Alaska, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The 46th running of Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicks off Saturday, March 3, 2018, amid the most turbulent year for organizers beset by multiple problems, including a champion’s dog doping scandal, the loss of major sponsors, discontent among race participants and escalating pressure from animal rights activists, who say the dogs are run to death or left with serious injuries. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The 46th running of Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicks off Saturday amid the most turbulent year ever for the annual long-distance contest that spans mountain ranges, the frozen Yukon River and dangerous sea ice along the Bering Sea coast.

Among the multiple problems: a champion’s dog doping scandal, the loss of major sponsor Wells Fargo, discontent among mushers and escalating pressure from animal rights activists, who say the dogs are run to death or left with serious injuries. The Iditarod has had its ups and downs over the decades, but the current storm of troubles is raising questions about the future of the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) race that for many symbolizes the contest between mortals and Alaska’s unforgiving nature. READ MORE>