Famed Dog Sled Racer Lance Mackey Dead After 'Long Battle with Cancer'

“Lance embodied the Spirit of the Race, the tenacity of an Alaskan musher, displayed the ultimate show of perseverance and was loved by his fans,” said officials for sled dog race run The Iditarod

Lance Mackey and his lead dogs, Larry and Lippy, celebrate after winning the 2007 Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska, March 13, 2007. (Photo by Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Photo: Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News/Tribune News Service/Getty

Four-time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey has died. He was 52.

Mackey's kennel announced the news of his death in a Facebook post on Wednesday, sharing, "Lance passed away this evening after a long battle with cancer."

Officials for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race mourned the loss of Mackey on Instagram alongside a collage of photos of the celebrated competitor.

"We at Iditarod Nation are mourning the loss of 4-time Iditarod Champion, Lance Mackey. Lance passed away late in the evening of September 7, 2022 after a 20+ year battle of cancer," the post read.

"Lance embodied the Spirit of the Race, the tenacity of an Alaskan musher, displayed the ultimate show of perseverance and was loved by his fans," the post continued. "Our condolences go out to his family, friends, fans and the mushing community."

Prior to his death, Mackey opened up about being diagnosed with cancer for a second time in an Aug. 5 Facebook post. He described the last several months as the "hardest/ worst part" as he received 24-hour care at a hospital.

Mackey was previously diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001; however, he went on to win four straight Iditarod races, from 2007 through 2010.

He also became the only musher to win both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race — a competition between Canada and Alaska — in the same year in 2007, according to Alaska Public Media.

ANCHORAGE, AK - FEBRUARY 29: Lance Mackey (Fairbanks, AK) drives his team in the Open World Championship Sled Dog Races during the Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival on February 29, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

He later struggled with health and drug issues.

Due to treatment for his throat cancer, he lost his saliva glands and his teeth disintegrated. He also suffered from Raynaud's syndrome, a condition which limits blood supply to the hands and feet, according to the Associated Press.

Mackey took a break from racing in 2015 and returned to the Iditarod in 2019 when he finished 26th. In 2020, Mackey was disqualified from the race after testing positive for methamphetamine, according to the AP.

Mackey also lost his partner Jenne Smith after an all-terrain vehicle accident in 2020. The couple are survived by their two children, Alaska Public Media reports.

Related Articles