Dope Testing of Chess Players

Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000 15:35:45 -0500
To: "Dr. Stephen J. Press"
From: Sam Sloan
Subject: Dope Testing of Chess Players
CC: "Dr. Pedro Barrera"

Dear Dr. Stephen J. Press ( ),

As you will recall, I attended the meeting of the FIDE Medical Commission where the issue of drug testing was debated and discussed, plus I attended all of the meetings of the FIDE General Assembly in Istanbul. However, it is only today that I got around to reading the large pile of papers I collected from these meetings. As a result, I now have some questions about dope testing for chess players.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Juan Antonio Samaranch
The Cover of the new FIDE Directory shows Kirsan Ilyumzhinov meeting with President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch

Just about everyone agrees that drug testing is a good thing, just as long as someone else does it and pays for it. However, what has been presented is that there will be drug testing during all FIDE chess competitions.

What does this mean exactly? We think of FIDE competitions as being Olympiads and matches for the world championship?

It would appear that, for example, the US Chess Championship in years in which it constitutes a zonal tournament for the world championship would clearly be included. I know all of the players who regularly participate in the US Championship and none of them use drugs except for an occasional drink of alcohol. However, I can think of several chess players who will object to the personal humiliation of peeing into a cup provided by FIDE. What will happen if they refuse to pee in the presence of inspectors? Must they be disqualified from participating in a US Chess Championship to which they have qualified? What if they file suit? What if they win a money judgment, as I believe they will?

Another question concerns cost: At the meeting of the FIDE Medical Commission it was stated that there is an IOC Certified drug testing lab in Moscow which will perform the tests for $150 only each, whereas the normal cost is $300 each. While the US Chess Federation can probably afford this, there are many poorer countries which cannot. Will the Botswana Chess Federation be required to have drug testing done on all players who participate in their national chess championship? Who will pay for this?

Next, does "all FIDE Competitions" extend to tournaments which are merely FIDE rated. Will the New York Open Championship, which is primarily a grandmaster event, be required to have drug testing done, simply in order to be FIDE rated?

The entire concept is questionable. This idea has been proposed as a way to bring big money into chess by making chess into an Olympic Sport. However, I doubt that even if chess becomes an Olympic sport it will bring more money into chess. For example, shot put and discus are purely Olympic events. Were they not so recognized, nobody would put the shot or throw a discus. I suspect, but do not know, that the shot putters finance themselves, spend their own money for years getting ready for the Olympic Games and never get any money back out of it, even if they win. I wonder why some chess players think that they will get rich if only chess can be recognized as an Olympic Sport. Will there really be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

One of the strongest opponents of drug testing of chess players is Grandmaster Jan Timman of Holland. Because of his objections, I understand that he is repeatedly asked by journalists if he himself is a drug user. I hope that no other prominent chess players will be subjected to constant questions about their personal habits just because they come out in opposition to the testing of drugs in chess players.

I can use myself as a safe example, because there is no chance that I will ever be invited to the US Closed Championship. I never ever smoke either tobacco or marijuana and I never ever drink alcohol. However, I do drink a lot of coffee. It happens that one of your standard tests is a test for caffeine. In your report, it states that a person who has had eight cups of brewed coffee within two to three hours before the test could test positive for caffeine. I rarely drink that much coffee, but the possibility that I could test positive and be banned for life from playing chess causes concern.

In weightlifting and other physical sports where it is a proven fact that drugs improve performance while shrinking brain size and shortening life expectancy, it is necessary that there be drug testing because otherwise every competitor would have to take drugs in order to remain competitive.

However, there is no known drug that will improve performance at chess and therefore there is no incentive for chess players to take drugs. At the same time, some chess players claim the right in principle to drink alcohol or even to smoke marijuana, claiming that it is nobody's business but their own.

I must also raise the question, since it is clear that chess players as a whole will ultimately have to pay millions of dollars for all the drug tests proposed under the plan of the FIDE Medical Commission: Is there not some incentive for doctors such as yourself to insist upon these tests, because of the big bucks you will be making as these tests are done?

If every high school track meet were required to have mandatory drug testing, you can be sure that the parents would object to paying the fees. In physical sports, only the world class elite are required to submit to drug testing. In chess, everybody can play. In chess, there are now 35,000 FIDE rated players. This number is projected to increase to 350,000 under the FIDE Commerce Deal that was signed on November 10, 2000, which reduced the minimum FIDE rating from 2001 to 1001. Remembering that drug testing is to take place not just once every four years as in the Olympic Games but every time there is a FIDE chess event, we are talking about a large financial expenditure by the world chess community.

Finally, I note that it seems to become mandatory that national chess federations join their national Olympic committees. I do not believe that the United States Chess Federation will be either willing or able to join the United States Olympic Committee. Will the USCF be kicked out of FIDE as a result?

My conclusion is that we are going to have to tell President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, to shove it. If he is going to require that all chess players submit to expensive drug testing, we do not need to join his organization.

I would like for you to address these questions.

Sam Sloan

I am now in Istanbul, where the World Chess Olympiad is taking place. I am issuing daily press reports on the developments in the Olympiad. Here are my daily press reports so far:
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