Facebook0TwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享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. The consultant called on organizers to develop a plan to rebuild trust with mushers and sponsors. The Iditarod said it couldn’t prove Dallas Seavey administered the drugs to his dogs, and didn’t punish him. Since then, the rules have been changed to hold mushers liable for any positive drug test unless they can show something beyond their control happened. More recently, a group of mushers named the Iditarod Official Finishers Club has called for the resignation of the Iditarod board president and other board leaders it says have conflicts. It also has criticized the board in its handling of the doping scandal. Hooley, the race CEO, said conversations are underway to replace some members. “You can count on from me, and many mushers that I would bet my life on, that we will continue to do the best we can for our dogs and the event,” he said. Four-time winner Jeff King said he sees room for improvements after the doping controversy caught organizers “flat-footed,” and he is ready for a significant change in the board leadership. But he doesn’t believe the Iditarod is nearing the end of its lifespan, and laughs when asked about it. Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley acknowledged organizers have weathered a dark time but disagreed the race faces an uncertain future. “There’s been a lot of craziness, but it’s the people who are insane,” he said. “The dogs aren’t crazy.” There’s one bright spot for organizers: Optimal trail conditions. A warming climate in recent years has caused significant disruptions, including the rerouting of the 2017 and 2015 races hundreds of miles to the north because of dangerous conditions. As always, the race will begin with the customary ceremonial start in Anchorage, but the competitive portion beginning Sunday north of Anchorage will follow a southern route for the first time since 2013. Traditionally, southern and northern routes are alternated every year. Mitch Seavey, who is seeking a fourth Iditarod championship, said his son is the happiest he’s seen him in months, and is reveling in heavy snow in Norway. The elder Seavey said he himself is not going to be distracted by “all the noise,” but is focusing on his dogs and the race ahead. The deaths of five dogs connected to last year’s race also played a role in increasing pressure from animal rights activists. Three of the deaths occurred during the race, and two dogs died after being dropped from the competition. One got loose from a handler and was hit by a car, and another died as it was flown to Anchorage, likely from hyperthermia. The race went without dog deaths in several recent years. Race officials blame activists for using manipulative information to pressure corporate sponsors like Wells Fargo, a longtime backer that severed ties to the Iditarod last spring. Dallas Seavey is sitting out this year’s race in protest over the handling of the doping investigation. Instead, he is in Norway to participate in another sled dog race, the Finnmarkslopet, which begins March 9.