Drugs Invade the World of Chess

Drugs are everywhere in sports, with athletes constantly seeking that little extra edge over their opponents. However, maybe I’m naive, but I never expected to hear about a drug scandal in the world of championship chess. I didn’t even know they were testing for drugs there! On November 25, after losing to Gata Kamsky during the Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, Vassily Ivanchuk, the third-ranked player in the world and a Grand Master for over 20 years refused to provide urine for a drug test. Under the rules, a refusal to test is considered a positive test and Ivanchuk could be subject to a two year ban.

Ivanchuk  has been given the name “Big Chucky” by his fellow chessletes 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.”

The other players are outraged over the incident, and the resulting insinuation that any of them are doping, believing it is insulting to their honor. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency chess is considered a “low-risk” sport and no one as yet has actually been convicted of doping.

Among the substances being tested for are prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, which makes sense. The reason the World Chess Federation has testing is that there is a movement to have chess included as an official Olympic sport. First of all, is it a Summer or Winter event? Does it matter? Second of all, if baseball is no longer an Olympic event, there is NO way chess should be considered one. IT ISN’T REALLY EVEN A SPORT! Don’t get me wrong, great chess players are impressive, but they certainly ain’t athletes…

As for Ivanchuk, there is a loophole that may help him out. Under Article 6, Paragraph 1a of the World Chess Federation’s rules, a player must be acquitted if he can prove that he is neither guilty of the offense nor that he acted negligently. Since Ivanchuk is known as a space cadet and in his own world, that may actually help him. When asked about the incident this week, while he was winning a tournament in Spain Ivanchuk had this to say, “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.”

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