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Drug Testing: Chess Players Rebel

The World Chess Federation, better known by its French acronym FIDE, has gotten itself into a controversy over drug testing. FIDE instituted its anti-doping program in a so far futile attempt to gain chess entrance into the Olympic Games, but now, with its threat to order a two-year suspension for Ukrainian Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk, the federation is facing rebellion and ridicule in the ranks.
chess board (courtesy
Players had already ridiculed the drug testing policy and criticized the quest to gain Olympic status as misguided, but the looming Ivanchuk suspension is bringing matters to a head. Ivanchuk, the third-ranked player in the world and a very popular figure in the game, failed to take a mandatory drug test after he lost a crucial game at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, in November. Instead of completing the drug test, an angry and distraught Ivanchuk left the building and was later seen stomping around and kicking posts outside.

"Can we believe such news?" Latvian-born Spanish Grandmaster Alexei Shirov, once a challenger for the world title, wrote in an open letter on the Ivanchuk case in December. "A player who has been at the very top for more than 20 years... gets banned simply because he wanted to calm down after a lost game?"

Another prominent player, German veteran Robert Hübner, one of the best players in the West during the 1970s and 1980s, refuses to participate in FIDE events to protest the drug testing policy.

The Ivanchuk affair is a case of "bureaucracy gone haywire," Washington, DC, tournament organizer Michael Atkins told the Washington Times this week. "Enhancing physical performance for athletes obviously needs testing, but I don't think anyone has ever shown that there are mental performance-enhancing illegal drugs that would improve play over the board to the degree that it affects results," he said. "Having to become a chess cop would drive me away from tournaments quickly. It really isn't worth it to do this just to get in the Olympics."

FIDE's anti-doping regulations are based on those of the World Anti-Doping Association, the body that governs drug testing in Olympic sports. The association's list of prohibited substances includes not only steroids, stimulants, gene doping and other "performance enhancing" substances, but also all illicit drugs, including marijuana, LSD, and heroin.

This isn't the first time FIDE has stirred controversy in the ranks over anti-doping policies. In the 2004 Chess Olympiad on the Spanish island of Mallorca, officials forfeited two lower ranking players after they objected random drug tests after their match. But Ivanchuk is a much more prominent and well-liked player, and that's giving the federation pause.

FIDE officials have postponed announcing a final decision on the mandatory two-year ban. Instead, a "doping hearing panel" will review the case in the next couple of months and make a decision. In the meantime, Ivanchuk is still playing tournament chess, and FIDE is a laughing stock for its members.

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Chess Players Rebel

This is bad news for me. I always play chess blasted out of my gourd on LSD.

I guess I'll never have a chance at the Olympics.

Speed chess

I volunteer to take on the drug "warrior" of your choice in speed chess, right after I've burned one.....let the ignorant folls find out how much "short term memory loss" I have.


Sounds like an excellent idea. We should all do that everywhere they demand drug tests for stupid reasons.

Drug testing

Low doses of dexamphetamine, methamphetamine, methylphenidate or similar stimulants can slightly enhance performance at chess. Higher doses will typically disrupt attention and concentration, (although the affected person will often believe that their performance is still enhanced). The same observations are true of the legal stimulants caffeine and nicotine.

There is no known regimen of drugs that could be taken "out of season" and enhance performance in tournament chess, in a manner analogous to (say) steroids in weightlifting. Testing out-of-season in tournament chess is about detecting illicit drug use, not about detecting "cheating."

If the testing was really in the interest of "fairness", then they should only be testing for performance enhancing drugs- whether legal or not- (nicotine, caffeine, dexamphetamine or other amphetamine type stimulants, etc). They should not be testing for THC, psychadelics, opiates, or other substances that will typically either degrade (or have no effect) upon performance. Nor should they be banning a player who tests positive to a substance, but was not affected at the time of the tournament, so they should be testing during the tournament, not out-of-season, and they should be looking at substances currently in the player's blood plasma, not in their urine.

However if the testing is really in the interest of "sending the right message about drug use"- (cos, you know, in most neighbourhoods those chess grandmasters are role models to "the kids"), then they will allow players to use legal stimulants, but will ban someone who smoked pot weeks before the tournament...

Agree with Speed chess

I have played chess for the last 37 years and getting "high" on and off for 33 of those years. I tend to win more often when I am stoned due to the fact that I can concentrate on the game without life's other problems entering my thought processes. It helps me to focus, without the short term memory loss that keeps being claimed by the experts in law enforcement and anti-drug groups.

Testing testers

How much testing would be demanded if the testers had to test at the same time?

Just Say No

Once again we need to contend with those who wish to save us from ourselves. These are the kind of people who would have us fighting diabetes by outlawing sugar.

I have verified that I play better chess while smoking cannabis. FIDE should consider that their current practice, testing after competition, may very well prove that the best players are stoners. (Will that make them "roll" models?)

I'm also against drug testing on the job; we should test our drugs at home.

Big Brother is Everywhere

Everyone wants to drug test these days. We live with a Fascist government controlling everyone with fears of terrorism. Hell you cant even play a game of chess without "big brothers" gigantic boot up your F-N Ass. Instead of bailouts we need to prioritize. all the money going to bust cannibas users and sellers could go to education.

Drugs/ Big Brother etc..

Shucks, everyone except you understands that Big Brother has children who just cannot manage their own behavior.

The saddest I have seen was in a hospital where the heron addict was crying because he couldn't afford a fix and that he was in anguish and looked like hell just at age 27.

And education you say? Where yuh been. This guy had two years of college then forgot everything he learned about aids. Now that is prioritizing big time. Lets see. After passing the class . . .what comes first, aids or drugs?

Big brother leaves  him alone and he is .................................dead. Some choice.

Is it just me, or have we really gone off the deep end?

Were testing kids, teachers, doctors, parents, now chess players? are you kidding me? This is the land of the free right? When will we all stop and say enough! No more testing, no more locking people up by the thousands because they are not enjoying Booze like a good little Raganites. IF every drug arrest demanded a jury trial the courts would fall apart, if every pot head planted 3 single seeds in 3 random places around town (Parks, Church lawns, University Green belts) the drug cops could spend all their time killing ditch weed, not trying to get the grade school kick ball team indited.

Just SAY No to all the drug law bull shit, Know your rights, and pitch those seeds out the window!

Sick of it
Denver CO.


Opiates I find are a great performance enhancer for chess.. It makes you feel good and calm, thoughts flow more easily in this state... Although amphetamines may increase your concentration, they kill your creativity (and creative, intuitive thought is a must in chess).

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