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Doping In Chess Scandal

  • salamillion
  • | Jan 13, 2009
  • | 5502 views
  • | 9 comments

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,595819,00.html

Anyone outraged about this here?

The Great Chess Doping Scandal

By Maik Grossekathöfer

Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk refused to submit a urine sample for a drug test at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden and is now considered guilty of doping. The world of chess is outraged that he could face a two-year ban.

Professional chess player Vassily Ivanchuk, born in Berezhany, Ukraine in 1969, has been a grandmaster for the past 20 years and is currently ranked third in the world. The man with black hair and bedroom eyes is known as "Big Chucky" by his fellow chess players. Why? Because, after losing a game, he goes into the forest at night and howls at the moon to drive out the demons. Because he walks around in shorts in freezing temperatures. Because he likes to sit in dark rooms. Because he usually looks at the ceiling instead of the board during a chess match. Because he tries to fold the oversized winner's check handed out after a tournament down to pocket size. And because he, as World Champion Visvanathan Anand says, lives on "Planet Ivanchuk."

 

International chess player, Vasili Ivanchuk.
Zoom
AP

International chess player, Vasili Ivanchuk.

Who knows what was going through Ivanchuk's head when, on Nov. 25 in Dresden, the last day of the Chess Olympiad, he lost to Gata Kamsky? What we do know, however, is that when the game against the American ended, a judge asked Ivanchuk to submit to a drug test. Instead, he stormed out of the room in the conference center, kicked a concrete pillar in the lobby, pounded a countertop in the cafeteria with his fists and then vanished into the coatroom. Throughout this performance, he was followed by a handful of officials.

 

No one could convince Ivanchuk to provide a small amount of urine for the test. And because refusal is treated as a positive test result, he is now considered guilty of doping and could be barred from professional chess for two years.

The incident in Dresden and the possibility of a professional ban for Ivanchuk has caused outrage in the chess world. The players, who fraternize with one another, say that accusing one of them of doping is an insult to their honor and intelligence. Letters of protest were issued, and players are accusing bureaucrats in the world of championship chess of destroying the game, because, as they insist everyone should know, doping provides no benefits in chess.

 

That is not entirely correct. Combining chess and doping may be a highly unlikely combination, but it's not impossible.

 

Drug tests were introduced at international chess tournaments in 2001. The World Anti-Doping Agency classifies chess as a "low risk sport," and so far no one has been convicted of doping. But what exactly does that mean?

It makes sense that anabolic steroids, the bulk-producing drug of choice for weightlifters, and EPO, the wonder drug of the cycling world, would not improve a chess player's performance. But when a chess player nears the end of a match and comes under mounting pressure, he can hyperventilate, and his pulse can shoot up to 160 and his arterial blood pressure to 200. In that situation, beta-blockers could help a player keep his head clear.

 

German grandmaster Helmut Pfleger, an internist and psychotherapist from Munich, says that because a player cannot know in advance exactly when these symptoms will begin, "a performance-enhancing dose is hardly possible." Pfleger tested the effects of beta-blockers on himself in 1979, in a match against Russian player Boris Spasski. "My blood pressure and pulse plunged, and my game fell apart completely."

 

It is undisputed, however, that caffeine can give a chess player a leg up, but the stimulant is no longer on the list of banned substances. Many players are passionate coffee drinkers.

It would certainly make sense for a chess player to take Ritalin or Modafinil. Both substances increase the ability to concentrate. Students take the drugs during exams, and doping inspectors test chess players for both substances.

A Cultural Asset, Not a Sport

The only reason there are doping tests in chess in the first place is that the World Chess Federation (FIDE) has been trying, since the late 1990s, to make chess an Olympic discipline. And anyone wishing to be part of the Olympics must submit to the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Not all players agree. Cologne native Robert Hübner, for example, once ranked third in the world, stopped playing for the German national team in protest against doping tests. He refuses to accept the rules of modern sports, because he does not consider chess a sport. Instead, Hübner believes that it belongs in the "realm of cultural assets." He considers doping tests to be a bureaucratic show of power, and he believes that the tests are degrading and deprive the individual of rights and responsibilities. Drug tests will be introduced into Germany's federal chess league next year, and when that happens, says Hübner, he will give up his career immediately.

 

FIDE has three months to decide whether Vassily Ivanchuk will be allowed to play in the future. The medical commission, which has been vigorously searching for a way to exercise leniency, may already have found the suitable gap in its own anti-doping regulations. Under Article 6, Paragraph 1a, a player must be acquitted if he can prove that he is neither guilty of the offence nor that he acted negligently. The fact that Planet Ivanchuk is on its very own orbit could work in the Ukrainian player's favor. Hans-Joachim Hofstetter, a member of the medical commission, has already said that Ivanchuk will "certainly not" be banned, but that there will be "a clarifying conversation" with him.

 

Ivanchuk has been in Spain this week, where he played and won a tournament in the resort town of Benidorm. "What happened in Dresden is total insanity, but these kinds of dramas happen in our world," he says. "I simply left after the match. I didn't listen to the man who was speaking to me. I had never seen him before. In fact, to this day I don't know who he is."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


Comments


  • 6 years ago

    salamillion

    Chocolate on the banned food list for chess players?  That's nuts.  Caffeine?  I play against a computer in the wee hours and am usually on a diet cola or tea that has caffeine in it.  I am new to chess and had no idea that food such as this is banned. 

    I remember the sad story of Risk Demont the Olympic swimmer who was stripped of medals for taking cold medicine while under a doctor's care.

    I guess I better read the rules one of these days.

  • 6 years ago

    FM FM_Eric_Schiller

    I refuse to play or arbit any event with "drug testing" and I violate the caffeine rules in almost every game. As arbiter of the Kasparov-Kramnik match, I saw how Kramnik had a scientific regimen of substances, while Kasparov had just Evian water and chocolate (a major performance enhancer!). If chess can be used as a lab to test mental performance enhancers, fine with me!

    I advise my students to use performance-enhancing snacks a few hours into each game. They include fruit, sometimes chocolate, yoghurt, etc. I also insist they have a good breakfast. Is this cheating?

  • 6 years ago

    ShahidAnwer

    I think doping shouldn't be an issue with Chess as doping will not improve the quality of a chess player.

  • 6 years ago

    chrisjuddisgreat

    thanks for the article mate. a very interesting read. i for one am absolutely appalled at this whole situation. chess is a mental game/sport/hobby/science/passion and we need to recognise it as such. there is no drug available that i know of that implants information in your brain once consumed. it is enormously unlikely that any drug on earth could help a grandmaster to knew heights. rediculous. as for me personally. i love to have a few bongs as my internet chessgame progresses. does this help improve my game? no. it is just simply that i am a smoker and enjoy playing chess when stoned. the thought of being banned from playing because of it is silly. this is clearly a case of politically correct beuaracrats on a power trip.    chess will never be in the olympics because as GM huebner said "chess is not a sport"

  • 6 years ago

    JoesephScott

    During phase 3 drug trials of Ritalin and Aderall, they found that non-ADD, non-ADHD people taking these drugs did not show a statistically better ability to concentrate or retain information as compared to the placebo group because of the side effects caused by flooding a correctly functioning brain with dopamine.  Twitching, shaking, nervousness, nausea, palpatations, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness (yes, this one too), fluctuating pulse and blood pressure, and severe tachycardia have all shown in greater than 1/40 patients, at least.  Most of these occurs in better than 1/10.

    None of the relevant drugs to increase concentration are even on the banned list.  This is just ridiculous on principle.  If someone wants to get coked out and try to play chess, power to them.  Or if they want to get baked and try it, they should get 1.5 points for a win! I mean, that is more impressive than anything else.

  • 6 years ago

    D_Blackwell

    The issue is not the medical prudence or safety of these drugs. The issue is the unfair advantage that it provides. Regardless of your position on chess being a sport or not, the game of kings is deeply demanding. If you have to take something to give you a competitive edge,

    Cortisone injections for joints, pain meds, balms for deep tissue bruises - even the life restoring quart of Gatorade.  There are many acceptable and common drugs, chemicals, and such for nearly any sport or endeavor.  It is where the lines are drawn.  What is 'safe' is an important issue; though generally debatable to no end, as is 'unfair advantage'.  I don't believe that the facts are often simply right/wrong or black/white.  The rules are however.   Ivanchuck got caught, deliberately refused to comply with the rules and is therefore guilty.  I have a problem and questions with the testing in chess and the standards applied, but Ivanchuck is busted.  So far, looks like the rules don't mean much if they are working so hard to get him off and dress it up somehow.

  • 6 years ago

    rockettorque

    The issue is not the medical prudence or safety of these drugs. The issue is the unfair advantage that it provides. Regardless of your position on chess being a sport or not, the game of kings is deeply demanding. If you have to take something to give you a competitive edge, then you have earned nothing and deserve nothing but contempt. If you want preformance enhancing products to be used, they must be distributed fairly to every player. It's an all or none situation here.

    I personally think that Ivanchuck looks mighty suspicious. He refused the drug test, because he didn't know the official? The man identified himself as an official and Chucky blew him off. The man still has not managed to provide a sample for analysis. If he is using preformance enhancing drugs, such as ritalin, I congratulate Gata on his excellent win against a cheater. If he is innocent Chucky should provide reasonable proof that he was not using, and I continue to extend my congratulations to Gata for his superb play.

  • 6 years ago

    salamillion

    phosphatidyl serine

    l-acetyl carnitine

    at least if you believe the hype on the infomercials

  • 6 years ago

    D_Blackwell

    I don't know enough to know if there are drugs that can give a concentration advantage.  If so, I don't know if the use of those drugs would/should be considered medically unsafe or imprudent.  Certainly some drugs are medically okay (and necessary) for some things and not others in most sports.

    FIDE has three months to decide whether Vassily Ivanchuk will be allowed to play in the future. The medical commission, which has been vigorously searching for a way to exercise leniency, may already have found the suitable gap in its own anti-doping regulations. Under Article 6, Paragraph 1a, a player must be acquitted if he can prove that he is neither guilty of the offence nor that he acted negligently.

    However, if you DO have certain rules (which may be emended for a variety of reasons at a later date), then those are the rules.  Short of 'fixing' or 'rigging', Ivanchuk has no defense and FIDE no honest way out. If he gets a pass then the rules have no validity and FIDE has made a joke of itself yet again.

    I am opposed to the whole 'chess as Olympic sport' part of this, but am very interested in drug usage that could give unfair advantage in concentration and the implications.  I find it difficult to believe that there are not such drugs and that they are not well known at the highest levels.

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