One of mushing’s most colorful and successful champions, Lance Mackey who won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race four times. He passed away on September 7 at the age of 52.
His father and Mackey’s Kennel announced the cause of Lance Mackey’s death was on Facebook as cancer.
Lance Mackey, the brother of 1983 champion Rick Mackey and the son of 1978 Iditarod champion Dick Mackey, overcame throat cancer in 2001 to win an unprecedented four consecutive Iditarod titles from 2007 to 2010.
He excelled in a variety of events, not just the 1,000-mile race across Alaska. With only two weeks between races, he twice won the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Canada and Alaska during his Iditarod run.
But following the run of victories, he struggled with drug use and health issues that kept him from ever again dominating his sport.
He lost his salivary glands as a result of his throat cancer treatment, which also caused his teeth to fall out. He was then identified as having Raynaud’s syndrome, which affects circulation in the hands and feet and is made worse by the extreme cold that every musher in Alaska’s wilderness must endure.
He was unable to use his fingers in the 2015 race to perform simple tasks like putting booties on his dogs’ paws to keep them warm in the snow, ice, and cold. Jason Mackey, his brother and a fellow competitor, consented to join him at the back of the pack to assist with tending to the dogs.
After taking a break from competition in 2015, Mackey competed in the Iditarod again in 2019 and placed 26th. According to the AP, Mackey was disqualified from the race in 2020 after testing positive for methamphetamine.
Additionally, Jenne Smith, Mackey’s partner, died in an ATV accident in 2020. The couple’s two children are still living, according to Alaska Public Media.