Iditarod bans musher in domestic violence case from '17 race

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) A musher who has been charged in a domestic violence case has been banned from next year's Iditarod, race officials announced Friday in Alaska.

The Iditarod Trail Committee Board said in a prepared statement that it ''will not accept race applications from Travis Beals in 2017 and for an indefinite period of time thereafter.''

Beals faces misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief charges filed in state court in Palmer for a Dec. 21 incident in Willow, Alaska, a small community about 50 miles north of Anchorage where the annual 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to Nome begins.

Charging documents aren't available online, but the Alaska Dispatch News (http://is.gd/l8WLRH) reported that the documents allege Beals ''grabbed (the victim) in a headlock, picking her up off the couch, physically escorted her to the door and pushed her out of the (Willow) cabin (they shared) into the yard, causing (her) to be placed in fear of imminent physical injury.''

Beals, who owns a kennel and dog sled tourism business in Seward, Alaska, didn't immediately return messages or a text Friday to The Associated Press. Beals finished 18th in this year's 1,000-mile Iditarod race across Alaska. In an email to the AP, Beals' public defender, Windy Hannaman, declined to comment since the case is not yet resolved.

Beals' case on April 14 was sent to therapeutic court. According to the state court's website, the therapeutic court is an alternative justice model in which participants choose treatment over incarceration and are monitored by a judge, district attorney, defense counsel, probation officer and a substance abuse or mental health provider.

The Iditarod statement said the length of Beals' ban on participating beyond 2017 ''will depend in large part on documentation of successful completion of all court-ordered rehabilitation.''

Race officials became aware of the pending court case on Jan. 22.

''Early on, we felt as though we really needed to allow the legal system to run its course and base any disciplinary decision we might need to make as an organization on the outcome of that court case, and so that's why he was allowed to run this year's race,'' Stan Hooley, the race's chief executive office, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

''But in the end, I think the board wanted to take action that was a little more expedient than that,'' he said.

Beals did not attend the Friday board meeting in Anchorage, but Hooley said they called Beals to let him know their decision simultaneous to the public announcement.

''As one might expect, it was hard news to take, but you know, hopefully as part of this process ... both parties are getting the help that they need and hopefully there's a better ending to this story,'' Hooley said.

According to his biography on the Iditarod web page, Beals has participated in the race since 2013 and was named the race's most improved musher last year. His 11th-place finish in 2015 was a marked improvement over the identical 37th-place finishes he had in 2013 and 2014.

The statement from the board of the world's most famous sled dog race notes that domestic violence is a ''pervasive problem in the State of Alaska and society in general.''

Race officials said they will ''immediately implement a process of reviewing its rules and policies, with the assistance of an advisory committee with the objective of revising those rules for future races to better address this serious societal issue.''

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