In a secret location on the trail I got to do something really unique and special… I became an honorary member of the Pee Team. The Pee Team collects urine samples from the dogs for testing. Now, it is a top secret mission and the data is all secured and locked up safe and sound.
Why are the dogs tested? The way it was explained to me by the head of the program is that it “levels the playing field.” There are really three levels of information or uses for the information. First, it can catch someone who has artificially enhanced their dogs. The screens test for 300 kids of enhancing drugs. If a positive were found it would be screened again. If both screens were positive, then the Iditarod Trail Committee Board of Directors would be notified and they would determine what would happen next. Because the Iditarod is a not for profit organization this is the chain of events. The process is different for horse racing and greyhound racing which are for profit types of sports.
The second use for the screening is that it can help support a major athletic accomplishment. In other words, if other competitors began to question a team, the testing can support, or prove that the accomplishment is legitimate. The third use is that if something seems to be wrong with a team, they can sometimes help to get to the bottom of the issue.
So when the teams came into the secret location the Pee Team approached the musher and asked if they could get started with their testing or could they make an appointment to come back later as the musher was getting ready to pull out. When it was time to start the testing they took the dogs one at a time off the gangline and took them for a walk with a leash to “encourage” them to take care of business. They need to collect urine samples from at least nine dogs, three samples per collection jar. Once the jars are full, they are labeled with stickers identifying the team and musher. They are then sealed with evidence tape and then locked in a cooler. The samples are then frozen and sent overnight to a lab in Colorado for analysis. The Pee Team takes their job very seriously and do a great job with it!
I got to be a member of the team and helped test two teams. The first one went really well and was pretty easy; the dogs were more than willing to pee when we needed them to. You have to kind of wait for the stream to start and then get the bottle in the stream. You need about 10 mm from each dog, which isn’t too much. If you get too much then there won’t be enough room for all three samples in the jar. Male dogs are easier to get then female dogs! The second team was a bit tougher. Those dogs really didn’t have to go and there was a lot of walking around and around and around trying to encourage them to go which didn’t really help much!
I couldn’t tell you about my top secret mission before now, because I couldn’t reveal where the testing was taking place. But now that the checkpoint is closed out, I think I’m safe! The Pee Team is now in Nome testing the dogs as they finish the race. They are a great group of girls and totally scored the best sleeping place and held it for me in the church in Nome! They hooked me up with a cot AND an air mattress. I am eternally grateful for their thoughtfulness!
And yes, the human athletes are tested too. They must provide a sample in White Mountain. But get this, their test only screens for about twelve types of drugs.