When 21-year-old musher Andre Duval of Brainerd and his eight-dog team pulled into Highway 2 checkpoint, the Beargrease 120's first checkpoint, he was disqualified.
It was reported as a musher violation with outside assistance.
“It happens,” race marshal Stan Passananti said at the time. Three judges came together to rule on the infraction.
But in the days since the race, anger over the disqualification, and a clearer idea of what happened, has emerged.
Andre's father, Maury Duval, told the News Tribune on Thursday that Andre had asked a race official the night before the race if muzzles were banned. A dog, Sheepy, had began to bite the dog next to him at the start of runs, and he wanted to make sure it didn't at the start of Sunday's mid-distance race.
While the official said the rules didn't ban muzzles, he encouraged Andre not to use a muzzle because of the perception it would give spectators, Maury said.
Duval added the muzzle was best described as "a mesh used to deter him from irritating the dogs next to him" and believed it didn't inhibit the dog's breathing.
Despite what was understood as permission to wear the muzzle, Andre was stopped by a race judge at the first road crossing, the muzzle was confiscated and Andre was warned that he would be disqualified if Sheepy were to bite, Maury said.
When Andre arrived at the checkpoint in 23rd place, he was disqualified, despite Sheepy not biting anyone.
The reason, Maury and Beargrease officials confirmed Thursday, was use of a muzzle.
"There's a discrepancy between muzzle and mesh and whether he could (run with one) in the rules," Maury said. "But they disqualified him on the basis of no rule other than their own opinion."
The 2020 Beargrease 120 rules don't explicitly ban or even mention "muzzles" or "mesh," but numerous rules say that if a dog's "health and welfare" are in jeopardy, then it's up to the the a race veterinarian and marshal to determine that.
"There's lots of ways to look at rules," Carmen Schempp, president of the Beargrease, said in an interview with the News Tribune on Thursday.
"We have very strong rules about the health and welfare of the animals," Schempp said. "So if the race marshal and chief vet believe he broke a rule, then we defer to them, because they are the ones who enforce those rules."
Schemmp took issue with claims that Beargrease officials had approved of the muzzle before the race.
"My understanding is that he did not get the OK to run with it," Schempp said.
But, Schempp said, that will become more clear after the Beargrease board of directors review a report examining the 2020 race, including "things that go well and things that could have gone better."
The race marshal and head vet will provide the the board with the report. It could result in additional or different rules in 2021, Schempp said.
"From the race standpoint, we need to review everything before we give any further comments," Schempp said. "The main thing is that I know as president of the board of directors is that he broke a rule and he was disqualified for breaking a rule."
Andre Duval competed in the mid-distance race last year, but was forced to drop out 2/3 into the race after a female dog on his team went into heat and a male dog took notice.