Ivanchuk's nightmare

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
ivanchukFor two long months, Vassily Ivanchuk's future in chess was in some doubt. After failing to respond to a request for a drug test following his last round loss at the Dresden Olympiad, he faced a potential two year suspension. Macauley Peterson provides us long-awaited details from the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel.

During the Corus tournament, of January 21st, all eyes were on Wijk aan Zee, as a committee arranged by FIDE was scheduled to meet with the popular Ukrainian GM to discuss the rules violation.

The following day, FIDE published a news item, Decision of the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel, which exonerated Ivanchuk.

To arrive at this conclusion, Chess.FM has learned that a preliminary meeting was held on January 20, after round four of Corus. According to the as-yet unpublished official decision from the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel, Ivanchuk, along with his lawyer Galiena Oleksii [SIC], met with four of the five members of the panel to plead his case. Also present was Polina Nikolopoulos-Tsedenova, the FIDE Administrative Manager, acting as an interpreter. The decision states in part:
This preliminary meeting was arranged to give Mr Oleksii the opportunity to give his view on the case, because Mr Oleksii had to leave Wijk aan Zee before the time of the hearing.
The basic argument in Ivanchuk's defense was as follows: After the final round match pitting the United States against Ukraine, Ivanchuk, who had lost to Gata Kamsky, was approached by International Arbiter Abraham Dorner (Israel), who informed him of the need for a drug test. Although the match selection and board number had been randomly determined in advance in accordance with FIDE regulations, no 'Doping Control Officer' was present along with Mr. Dorner, therefore Ivanchuk had technically not 'refused' a drug testing request.

The Doping Hearing Panel convened the morning on January 21, between 10:00 and 11:00. The panel consisted of:
  • Jana Bellin - Chair of the FIDE Medical Commission, which is responsible for overseeing drug testing in chess.
  • Dr. Hans-Joachim Hofstetter - Vice-chairman of the FIDE Medical Commission
  • Grand master Jonathan Speelman - member of the FIDE Medical Commission
  • Grand master David Navara
  • Arthur Schuering - International Arbiter (Netherlands)
Also present, at the request of Mr. Ivanchuk, was International Arbiter Pavel Votruba, from the Corus tournament organization. Arthur Schuering was the principal author of the final decision.

According to vice chairman Dr. Hofstetter, reached by phone on Tuesday, the committee actively sought a way to avoid sanctioning Ivanchuk, whose actions were widely considered to have been innocuous, and not an attempt to evade the anti-doping regulations. He notes that Ivanchuk previously participated in two doping control tests during past events, without any problem.

Dr. Hofstetter was unable to attend the Dresden Olympiad, but previously acted as the sole Doping Control Officer for the 2006 Turin Olympiad. Chairperson Bellin attended Dresden, but had left the Olympiad prior to the last round. After the Ivanchuk incident was reported, Hofstetter contacted Mrs. Bellin to confer on a course of action.

According to Hofstetter, he told Bellin, 'we should find some solution to make the best for the chess player.' There was never any direct pressure from FIDE to sanction Ivanchuk, he says, a view also confirmed by another member of the panel who preferred not to be quoted for this story. 'I think that the medical commission is still independent from [FIDE] and that's good,' added Hofstetter.

It is not clear why a Doping Control Officer could not be present at the required time, but from his prior experience, Hofstetter speculated that there was “too much testing in the last round and really a lack of personnel.”

The issue of drug testing remains controversial since none of the screened substances have been shown to provide any significant benefit to a chess player. The purpose of compliance with the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) is more political and economic than sporting.

'The intention is still to get FIDE and to get chess as an official Olympic sport,' Hofstetter explained. My opinion is that it will not work.”

Despite the fact that FIDE was granted Recognized International Sports Federation status in 1999, IOC president Jacques Rogge has capped the number of Olympic sports, and shows no willingness to consider so-called “mind sports' for inclusion in the games.

The remaining rationale for IOC anti-doping compliance in chess is that certain national federations receive government funding so long as chess is recognized as a sport by the IOC, and chess events, in turn, abide by the WADA regulations.

The German Chess Federation, for example, receives approximately €200,000 annually from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, according to the Federation’s general secretary Horst Metzing, and that funding is contingent upon compliance with national anti-doping regulations, which are based on the WADA standards.

Metzing stressed that the German Chess Federation was not directly involved in the Ivanchuk case, but it is clear from the accounts of Doping Hearing Panel members, that appeasing the WADA was a priority. The bulk of the time at the January 21 meeting in Wijk aan Zee was spent discussing the appropriate language for the final decision. Said Hofstetter, 'It was hard to find the right words because we had to give it to WADA.' Although he was not aware of the process by which the WADA will review the panel's decision, or the time frame for doing so, Hofstetter was confident that they would accept the judgement.

The panel unanimously decided not to sanction Ivanchuk during the meeting. A summary to that effect was given to Ivanchuk the very same day, and the complete decision was delivered to him on January 25, according to the unpublished text of the decision.

Ivanchuk himself declined to comment for the Chess.FM broadcast on January 22, after round five in Wijk aan Zee, saying only that he wished to 'forget this nightmare.'

AUDIO (Running time: 37 seconds)

Ivanchuk will be participating in the eight-player field in Linares starting next week, so he will have a chance to prove that he can forget his two months in anti-doping limbo.

Reprinted, with permission, from the Chess.FM blog. Macauley Peterson is a journalist and media specialist for the Internet Chess Club and recently covered the Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, and the GibTel Masters in Gibraltar. He can be reached on ICC, 'Message Macauley' or at

Creative Commons LicenseDetails from the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel by Macauley Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Chess.FM's Legal Moves page.

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