Friday, February 13, 2009

Chess and doping

CHESS has been trying to become an Olympic sport and must submit to all the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), including their anti-doping program.

The program was first introduced during the Asian Games in Qatar although the competition’s organizer, Yousuf Ahmad Ali, was quoted as saying, “I would not know which drug could possibly help a chess player to improve his game.”

During the last Olympiad in Dresden last year, Ukraine was chosen after a raffle to undergo drug testing and it was done in the last round. Let us take a look at exactly what happened.

A victory over the 10th seed USA in the final round would give them gold, a draw would secure silver and even a 1-3 loss to the US would get them a bronze medal.

However, the final result was ½-3½ and subsequently Ukraine did not win any medal at all, losing the bronze to the US on tiebreak points.

After losing the crucial game to Gata Kamsky, Vassily Ivanchuk was terribly upset. A witness was quoted saying, “I witnessed Ivanchuk kick a large concrete pillar, then bang his fists on the food service counter a couple of times in the cloak room area of the venue, all the time being followed by a couple of officials.”

They were saying that he should undergo drug testing. Actually, to be precise, he didn’t fail it—he refused to take it, which in the totally rational world of international drug testing, counts as a positive.

Fide president Kirsan Ilyumshinov himself has indicated that Ivanchuk could face a two-year ban.

After a thorough investigation, though, it was announced prior to the start of the prestigious Corus 2009 tournament that it was a misunderstanding and there would be no penalty. Besides….how the hell do you dope in chess?

Athletes are banned from taking thousands of chemical substances that experts believe will give them an unfair advantage.

There are five main categories of drugs that are banned: anabolic steroids—these help athletes to build muscle; peptide hormones—substances that occur naturally in the body but produce similar effects to the anabolic steroids; painkillers such as morphine; stimulants—drugs like amphetamines and cocaine can raise the heart rate and improve performance;
diuretics—chemicals that help the body to lose fluids and be useful in helping boxers to meet their fighting weight.

In the laboratory, mind-enhancing drugs are the next gold mine in the medical field. “We’re on the verge of profound changes in our ability to manipulate the brain,” says Paul Root Wolpe, a bioethicist. “The next two decades will be the golden age of neuroscience,” declares Jonathan Moreno, another bioethicist. “We’re on the threshold of the kind of rapid growth of information in neuroscience that was true of genetics 15 years ago.”

Truly effective neuropharmaceuticals that improve moods and sharpen mental focus are already widely available. While there is some controversy about the effectiveness of Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, millions of Americans have taken them, with mostly positive results.

Other effective drugs that enhance memory concentration and focus are Huperzine A, Gingko Biloba, Dimethylaminoethanol, which is used to treat attention deficit disorder, Choline, Pyroglutamic acid, which stimulates cognitive function, and Ribonucleic acid, RNA.

The implications of drug-enhanced minds are vast; these drugs would create a transformation every bit as significant as the one wrought by computers and the Internet. Why should we not take them?

Does it mean that chess players should not take them in order to play in the Olympics? Baloney!

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