Drug testing and Chess

The post-game press conferences of the World Chess Championship have been delayed by more than half an hour as each player, Viswanathan (Vishy) Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, had to take their mandatory drug tests.  Anand calls it completely pointless and said drug testing was made for other sports, but not chess.  On Tuesday, October 21, 2008, the two players had to have two separate press conferences as Kramnik finished his drug testing before Anand, who had trouble producing a urine sample.


Even the seconds (assistants) for the two Grandmasters were tested for drugs, even though they were not playing.  Their drug tests were considered out-of-competition tests.


The drug testing is part of the FIDE chess deal (supported by FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov) to make chess a sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) so that chess can be part of the Sports Olympics.  Currently, the IOC does not accept chess or other “mind sports” as part of the Olympics because they entail no physical exertion.  They are also reducing rather than increasing the number of Olympic sports.  Bowling, racquetball, water skiing, polo, ballroom dancing, surfing, billiards, and squash are currently rejected as an Olympic sport.


No drugs have ever proven to enhance chess performance by chess players.  And so-called memory drugs (if there is such a thing) are not even tested.    Research carried out by the Dutch Chess Federation has not produced a single substance that could be considered performance enhancing.  Dr. Helmut Pfleger, a Grandmaster and medical doctor, has been conducting experiments of chess players for over 20 years.  He says, “Both mentally stimulating and mentally calming medication have too many negative side effects.”


Chess players are tested for drugs that appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list.  There are more than 100 substances on the banned list.  This includes steroids, Erythropoietin (EPO), amphetamines, diuretics, tranquilizers, beta blockers, cocaine, Ventolin inhalers, etc.  This list also includes excess levels of alcohol and cannabis, and, at one time, coffee (caffeine was removed from the WADA list in 2004).  See the 2009 WADA prohibited list at  http://www.wada-ama.org/rtecontent/document/2009_Prohibited_List_ENG_Final_20_Sept_08.pdf


Some countries do not recognize the drug testing for chess players.  The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) does not consider chess a sport and their chess players are not tested.


The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) also rejects chess as a sport.   Mandatory or random drug testing is prohibited at all USCF-rated events.  USCF’s FIDE representatives are instructed to campaign against the practices of requiring drug testing at any chess tournament or match.


The first country to support drug testing for chess players was Germany.  In 1992, under pressure from the German Sports Federation, the German Chess Federation introduced doping rules in order to qualify for financial assistance for chess.


In 1999, FIDE enforced drug testing in all major FIDE events such as the World championship, Chess Olympiad, or national championship.


The Spanish Chess Federation receives around $320,000 a year from the Council of Sports to test chess players at random during team tournaments and their national championship.


In 2001, a drug test during an Italian tournament resulted in a positive test for an Italian player.  He had been taking a common asthma drug.  Months later, he was cleared of any wrongdoing after he showed a medical reason for taking the drug.


The 2002 Bled Olympiad was the first to test for drugs through a urine sample.  All 802 players passed.  GM Jan Timman of the Netherlands refused to play in protest to the drug testing.


In 2004, two players had their scores erased at the 36th World Team Championship (Chess Olympiad) in Calvia, Spain, because they refused to comply with a random drug tested demanded by FIDE.   Immediately following her win in the last round, Susan Polgar was “randomly” selected to take a drug test.  She had just won the best performance award of the entire Women’s Olympiad in Calvia.


In 2008, Grandmaster Manuel Rivas-Pastor, a three-time former Spanish national champion, was disqualified from the Spanish Chess Championship for refusing to take part in a drug test.


There will be random drug testing at this year’s chess Olympiad in Dresden. 


The current FIDE Medical Commission chairperson responsible for enforcing the drug testing is Dr. Jana Bellin.


Historically, drug testing in the Olympics came about after an incident.  At the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome, a cyclist died of an overdose of amphetamines.  Afterwards, an IOC Medical Commission was born to test athletes for drugs.


Perhaps the only death attributed to drugs is the case of British player Jessie Gilbert.  She was a 19-year-old chess prodigy who plunged to her death from her 8th floor hotel room in Prague.  Organizers of the chess tournament she was playing in (Czech Open Chess Championship) believe she committed suicide.  She left no note, but medication for depression was found in her room.  At age 12, she won the Women’s World Amateur Championship, the youngest player ever to do so.


I wonder if chess players should be tested for drugs after playing speed chess all night long.


Before completing in a chess tournament where drug testing is likely to take place, players should visit their doctor and obtain written permission for any prescription or other drugs that might be taking for medical reasons. 



  • 22 months ago


    Pointless Completely pointless.IOC should withdraw the drug testing deal with FIDE.It shoiuld stop interfering in the brain game if it cannot include it in the games.Complete Shit

  • 22 months ago


    We all know Illumzhinhov's (FIDE president) hungry ambition for world chess domination, ranging from reducing all the matches (and world championships!) to one hour for each side to issuing a "FIDE Visa card" so the players can pay fide directly for their rating.

    But, drug testing! really there can't be a better way to drive people away from chess.


    Do you know that chess drug testing started from CHILDREN?

    at the world youth olympiad in 2001,parents and players weren't told that there would be drug testing, and this led to major withdrawal from parents.



  • 5 years ago


    Interesting article!

    I read FIDE introduced drug testing to get the Chess Olympics made part of the regular Olympics, another asinine idea that doesn't appear to have caught on. Oh well the USA has been "winning the war on drugs" since 1909 (banning opium), 1924 (heroin) 1937 (marijuana) 1966 (LSD) etc etc. So FIDE isn't the only organization around with a totally asinine view on drugs...

  • 7 years ago


    drug testing and chess, in my opinion completly ridiculous

  • 8 years ago


    My opinion?  Looks ridiculous to me.  Look at the Ivanchuk incident in the 2008 Olympiad.  Of course I have had "random" drug checks my 25 years of military service.  In Thailand, I was picked in 11 out of 12 months (random?) in operation Golden Flow.  I observed the least likely guys to take drugs to get tested and the known druggies seemed never to get picked (nobody wanted a bad record at their organization).  Paul Hoffman in his book King's Gambit, however, thinks drug use is good for chess stamina and it worked for him.  But at the highest level, I don't think it has any effect.  I don't think Anand or Fischer or Kramnik ever took drugs to enhance anything.  Perhaps Karpov, maybe Kasparov for endurance of their marathon matches.  More likley cheating and computers will be the more serious threat.

  • 8 years ago


    Mr. Wall, I would like to hear YOUR opinion on this.Ridiculous, or necessary? Excuse me if I missed your opininion if you've given it earlier and missed it....Greg

  • 8 years ago


    Well, I suppose that means that I will never win a world championship, not that there was much hope to start with. They should use the 3-M things that only test postive if you use it while wearing the patch. Thanks for the information billwall.

  • 8 years ago


    WOW...! CRAZY.... Yell

  • 8 years ago


    what next? antidoping for booker prize [they gave it to a trashy book anyway this year], lit. nobel, math fields medal ...

    erdos: 'a mathematician is a device for converting coffee into theorems'. Will the 'is' have to be emended to 'was'? Anyways, lots of mathematicians are a device for converting coffee AND cigarettes into theorems...

    what more is to follow? non-smoking philosophers?

    Cigarettes airbrushed out of photos of Sartre and Vonnegut???

  • 8 years ago


    Of course there are drugs that can give you an edge in chess. Methamfetamine is often used by college students to help them study. From what I hear, meth increases study capacity 400%. Cocaine has been used for the same purpose, but with less effect.

  • 8 years ago


    I wish there was a drug that would improve my chessplaying. I wish there was something that would improve my chessplaying besides hard work and study. I wish chess was a sport so that playing chess would make me lose weight and make me healthy and strong. And I wish the Olympics didn't have so many rediculous catagories of competition like ballroom dancing and bowling. The Olympics doesn't need Chess and Chess certainly does not need the Olympics.

  • 8 years ago


    No kidding !

  • 8 years ago


    This really does fall in the category of idiotic. Can you imagine if a world champion contender were disqualified because he tested positive for a banned substance that could not possibly enhance his playing?

  • 8 years ago


    I have been seeking the opportunity to participate in an extensive study, but so far I have not been able to find anyone to bankroll my habi... er... this particular area of study.

    Though for any of you who are undecided on this issue, please see the following:


  • 8 years ago


    how ... i found that so interesting. thanks billl :)

  • 8 years ago


    Coffee and a lot of it should be good for this mind sport

  • 8 years ago


    Honestly... it has never crossed my mind.

  • 8 years ago


    This is extremely fascinating.


    Maybe post it as a news thread too?

  • 8 years ago


    so i cant blow a joint before playing some chess??

  • 8 years ago



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