You can now add one to the list of sports tainted by scandal over the possible use of banned substances. If you think chess is a sport, anyway.
The possibility of "doping" by international chess athletes got some publicity recently when officials threatened to suspend Vassily Ivanchuk, a Ukrainian grandmaster who is ranked third in the world. Ivanchuk stormed out of the "Chess Olympiad" in Dresden late last year after being asked to submit to a urine test. Refusal is treated the same way as a positive result, and so Ivanchuk faces a possible two-year ban.
What are they worried about, exactly? The concern in the chess world is not that you will have a bunch of steroid-pumped braniacs slamming pawns back and forth, but rather that a chess player might try to get an unfair advantage by taking drugs that help concentration, like Ritalin. (Caffeine used to be banned, but is not on the list anymore.) Another reason chess players are being tested -- maybe the main reason -- is that there is a push to make chess an Olympic event (which would be just fantastic for the TV ratings), and for that to happen it has to submit to all of the International Olympic Committee rules.
Whether Ivanchuk refused to submit to the test because he was taking a banned substance, or because he is crazy, is hard to say. According to the article, Ivanchuk is one of the more eccentric characters in chess. After winning, he "tries to fold the oversized winner's check . . . down to pocket size," and after losing, "he goes into the forest at night and howls at the moon to drive out the demons." Chess can do that to a man.
The World Anti-Doping Agency does say that it considers chess a "low-risk sport."
Link: Der Speigel