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FIDE's Doping Panel for Ivanchuk

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The following from Macauley Peterson today:

For 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.

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 According to the as-yet unpublished official decision from the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel, Ivanchuk, along with his lawyer Galiena Oleksii, met with four of the five members of the panel to plead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.

Full story from the ICC Chess.FM blog

I never believed they would do anything serious to Ivanchuk, but the money quote, literally, is later in the piece:

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 (World Anti-Doping Agency) 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 judgment.

Always nice to know the exact price tag on one's dignity and logic. This is the rationale many give for continuing the testing, but it's a shame these bureaucracies are so stupid and the applicants so uncreative. This is another reason chess should be funded like opera houses and museums, under "culture," at least when it comes to state funding, and at least in places that otherwise make insane demands. By all means, get all the funding you can by any means you can, but not at any cost. Drug testing in chess is a travesty and a scam. Pimping the honor and dignity of our sport and the great players who lead it is a scandal, and another black mark on the Ilyumzhinov legacy.


I think the whole drug testing idea in chess is rubbish. Chess is not a sport, we have no need to be involved with the WADA. Even if we follow all the rules and regulations, chess is never going to be in the Olympics!

I think it's time for FIDE to reassess the drug testing policy - maybe it's even time for the president of FIDE to step down and let someone new take the lead.

That's rubbish! They should concentrate on computer doping instead!

Yes, the idea is rubbish but the reason for stick to that --as Mig/Peterson point out-- is the funding that some countries governments give to the Chess Federations if they comply with the WADA regulations.

So, the task is to convince the governments that Chess deserve fundings per se, as a cultural activity, and is positive for the society in the long run keeping the youngsters away from drugs, smoking, vandalism, sedition, etc.

This is a wonderful piece of migotry. chess funded like an opera house? Culture? Its a board game for christ sake. Its a competitive game between 2 players - played for money at the higher levels ie its a sport. What next state funding for dominoes, crosswords, darts! I suppose it would be nice to take the old dutch approach to art and we could get paid for sitting around in cafes playing chess....

"By all means, get all the funding you can by any means you can, but not at any cost." Ummm whats the moral the difference between means and cost here? Isnt it time we stopped pretending tht drugs cannot benefit chess play?

Aside from the question about stimulants (and while Ritalin is a favorite cited example rarely does anyone seem to mention amphetamine,) there's one thing that I never see anti-doping test advocates discuss. What of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, hash, morphine, and oxycodone? They are also on WADA's prohibited list.

"But wait," you say, "These don't enhance performance!"

So what?

Is it a valuable and viable goal in and of itself to fight substance abuse by having drug monitoring in high level chess? Or are libertarian ideals of the freedom to turn on with whatever one wants to a controlling idea.

Me, I can see both sides of the coin there. But I also see one thing that Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez has proven in the last few days: If we want top level chess players to be admired, they'd better be clean. And in these days... that means proving it by testing.

Though I could be wrong.

I see only one side of the coin here: hypocrisy. If the goal of drug testing in chess is "to fight substance abuse" then why single out chess? Lets mandate obligatory drug testing for everybody, everyday and be done with it. Want to enter a bus? Well, pass a drug test first. After all it's all about fighting a substance abuse, a noble and dignified goal.

As for those that think that performance enhancing drugs are a problem in chess...Look, performance enhancing drugs in any sport become a problem only at the point when it's impossible to compete at top level without using them. In other words they are a problem if they give their user a significant edge. At present one can argue only whether there is no benefit at all, or a very small benefit. Being well prepared in the opening and having a good night sleep has a much greater effect on the game outcome than any ritalin you can get. And of course, computer assistance would have a much bigger impact than any available drug. Spending time, effort and money on drug testing in such circumstances is ridiculous and wasteful.

I'd worked out in 2004 that NOC recognition of FIDE was providing $2.2 million across 29 various National Chess Federations. Germany, at the time, got $0, so hopefully the $2.2M number has increased in the past five years.

It's a bit outragous for us to be criticising NOCs for doing drug testing in exchange for financial support of chess. They don't give money unless drug testing happens. End of story.

Kirsan's been a total disaster for chess. Oddly enough, IOC recognition of chess is about the only positive thing Kirsan's helped bring to the table in 15 years.

"...another black mark on the Ilyumzhinov legacy."

Are you freaking kidding Mig?!! This is a known murderer! How much worse can ANYTHING else be?!! After that, he associates with dictators (which he IS one) and terrorists. And THEN he totally destroyed FIDE.

You'll never find the black mark in all that black!

What we don't know is how much of that state money, and more, would be available without drug testing if the national federations made the effort of creating new channels instead of brainlessly waiting to file the same paperwork as the wrestling federation, et al.

I'm not sure why everyone freaks about how to define chess down when its history shows a broad, if sporadic and decentralized, variety of sponsorship. That it's "just a game" is beside the point since it's a game that has become part of both culture and sport (and science, with computers) around the world. From every level of government, cultural societies, corporate funding, wealthy individuals, individual club subscriptions, media rights, etc.

Today we have even more options thanks to the internet. But organizers, federations, and FIDE have for the most part been stuck in the mud, incompetent, and corrupt. Not that they haven't tried, occasionally, and even the worst of them have well-meaning and enthusiastic and knowledgeable people. But the decentralization that helps also makes it hard to herd the cats into something bigger. That is, to actually grow the pie. And on the rare occasions the right pieces fall into place, it hasn't lasted long.

I'm not at all convinced IOC recognition, what what it's worth, is a positive accomplishment. I'd rather the dozens of mind sports (or games, if you prefer; it's irrelevant) and their many millions of participants band together and lobby for all that state money on more reasonable terms instead of being deep in an IOC basement. As the legendary world championship matches have shown, chess can generate massive interest and sponsorship on its own terms.

I concede the point, noyb, but I was distracted by thinking about his *chess* legacy. Knock-outs, short time controls, squandering the advent of the internet era...


Well, obviously, NOC funding shouldn't preclude National Chess Federations from going out to try to get even more (and less restricted) funding. The best part of NOC money is that it doesn't preclude other fundraising efforts, and vice versa. The only downside to it is drug testing, but that's a long and storied argument which I really don't care to rehash. The only thing I'm glad is that idiots like Press who got people worried about drug testing Kindergarteners in Scholastic events aren't involved in the program anymore.

National Chess Federations have done a poor job, historically, to raise funding for chess, with some very large notable exceptions (Turkey the biggest?) That being said, NOC funding is great for chess. We need more funding, however. Much more. To go bonkers about NOC money for drug testing reasons at this point is somewhat problematic. I hope chess is so funding rich we can pick or choose the money we get. Currently, we can't.

Otherwise, I completely agree with what you say. Chess is so dramatically mismanaged that I gave up hope long ago. Sadly, since getting out of the area, FIDE, USCF and sponsorship have all declined. Tragic.

The main problem could be that chess community thinks that chess is exceptional compared to other human activities and shouldhave everything specila and exceptional. For public, it is probably closest to sport, ie. to get public financing chess has to obey the same rules as other sports. Very simple. There are other sports where drug testing does not make much sense either but nobody complains. It is quite normal that you have to obey some rules to get public financing.

Public financing under culture? Come on, Mig :-)

One thing you risk with the funding of chess as a cultural event like opera, is the dreaded "Do it for the children" excuse, and drug testing will reappear in a new and more virulent guise.

As a teen in the 70s I was lucky to be prodded into visiting a certain local chess club. It was night, it was seedy, people smoked and were drunk and who knows what else, and everyone had a great time! As a teen, it was a special thing to be interacting with adults (mostly men), hearing and getting to participate in part of adult life.

Years later, I stopped into the club again, and everything had changed. It was quiet. No smoking. No drinking. No cursing. Lots of children and teenagers, and some parents lined up around the walls. No seedy, unshaven gentlemen who staggered in at midnight and played til 3am. It was all gone, it had all been banned, "for the sake of the children!"

I don't like drug testing.
We had alcoholics as world champions.
We had ill people as world champions which needed medicin. Our heros are not every time 20 or 30. Sometimes they where 50-60 and needed some medicin. One world champion had pain because of his kidneys. Some older people have pain because of their back.
And if i have pain in my back i should not take drugs for winning the Tour de France, but i think its ok to take drugs that i can sit and play chess.

Good point. Although alcohol testing in Tal's case mught have seen him fulfil his potential as the most talented Chess player in history.

I'm all for trying to get money in any reasonable way possible. The issue, of course, is cost-benefit ratio. First, $2.2M across 30 nations is ridiculously low sum. Second, comes the questions what happens to this money. What part of it was spent on drug testing itself? What part of it is left in the pockets of FIDE and national officials? Third comes the questions why people that receive no benefit from this money should be subjected to this ridiculous and humiliating procedure. For example, only 30 nations had access to any money at all. Why players of other nations should test? I doubt many top players saw any part of this money at all (since they get most of their money in privately sponsored events), but it's obviously top players who are tested most often.

The bottom line is
1. Chess as a sport doesn't need drug testing.
2. The amount of money that drug-testing brings is small.
3. Drug testing imposes significant restrictions on life-styles of players.
4. Players that are subjected to testing rarely get NOC-related money.

There's at least one player more talented.

Hi Mig - I understand. It's easy for readers to rush to snap judgements in blogs. I was just mind-boggled by the "Ilyumzhinov legacy" phrase.

I'd like to see FIDE done away with and for either a new body to be established or else just go back to the system of the World Champion taking on strong challengers who can finance matches.

The sooner Ilyumzhinov is forgotten, the better.

Unfortunately, computers will probably soon do chess in anyway when they either "solve" chess or else just make openings and endings all known (we're very close to that already, what with six and seven piece endgame dbs anyway).

@weakchess: If medicine is needed ("pain in my back,") there are Therapeutic Use Exemptions. Mainly a person has to show medically that the drug in question is necessary, won't enhance their performance, and that there is no viable alternative to handle the condition. So it's not about preventing players from getting necessary prescription medicine.

As for alcohol, there are only a handful of sports where alcohol is prohibited and then only at the time of competition. They are mainly in disciplines that needs it as a safety factor. Chess is not one of them.

There are no Therapeutic Use Exemptions for many important drugs which older chessplayers might need to take.
Not so long ago FIDE was allowed by WADA to add a formerly banned drug to the TUE list after learning that forgoing that drug and obeying WADA's drug regulations may have contributed to irreparably damaging one GM's health - shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.
In retrospect the right advice for any GM would be take whatever you want or need, then refuse the drug tests - you're such to get off on a technicality. Don't try this if you're an amateur player, though.

I do sense an opportunity for a new sport, though: trying to engineer increasingly improbable situations in which FIDE has to tie itself in knots concocting just the right wording for their statements. Lots of money on the line! Or is that just a game?...

There are seven-piece DBs? Without cutting corners? This I find hard to believe....

I find the "outrage" over drug-testing in chess to be overblown.

Several posters here point out the obvious -- that national federations (in Europe) get funding from their governments if they comply with the doping regulations. The money -- in terms of average chess federation budget -- is not trivial.

Are there downsides to the testing/funding program? Of course.

We have the same downsides in scholastic chess in the USA -- many schools that "recognize chess" as a sport will not allow young players to win money prizes. We've had situations where young players had to give up $100 prizes at tournaments because it would jeopardize their status as athletes in football or soccer.

Is that a downside to "school recognition of chess"? You bet it is!

But I find those folks who say "chess is not in the Olympics" or "chess is not a sport" to be very unhelpful to the debate.

Chess *is* in the Olympics -- it just isn't in the main (final) games. That is precisely why the various national federations go along with the testing programs...so that they can get funding for all the levels of IOC that here in the USA we rarely see.

And chess *is* a sport -- even at local club level, one can see that from the level of concentration, the level of effort, and the self-reporting of the participants. If 30 players playing in weekly tourneys say "wow, this is hard" or "wow, this requires stamina" then certainly at higher levels of competition it is a sporting event. Why deny the obvious?

This is another reason chess should be funded like opera houses and museums, under "culture," at least when it comes to state funding, and at least in places that otherwise make insane demands.

For what it's worth, there are now some celebrity bridge shows on British TV, broadcast on Sky Arts. Perhaps arts channels might be interested in trying chess as well, even if only played between 1000-ish-rated celebrities. (Heck, I saw dominoes on ESPN 2 a year or two ago, so...)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 11, 2009 5:15 PM.

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