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Inforchess Magazine 11
Inforchess Magazine 11

Miguel Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf
Nadie amó más al ajedrez

GM Ian RogersRogers Inforchess Column #46
Por el GM Ian Rogers

Two players are at the centre of a drug testing controversy which rocked the Calvia Chess Olympiad, and cast severe doubt on the credibility of FIDE's drug testing program and Anti-Doping Tribunal.
The person most responsible for the crisis is Shaun Press, the Papua New Guinea representative who challenged the legitimacy of FIDE's drug testing programme when he he was called to the drug testing area to give a urine sample at the conclusion of his thirteenth round game.
Press knew that an elderly Bermudan player, Bobby Miller, had already refused to take a drug test on the previous day, on the advice of his captain, US Grandmaster Nick De Firmian. Press also knew that, although players at the Bled Olympiad in 2002 had faced no sanctions after refusing a drug test, Miller had been told he would face a ban. (Miller was told that under new World Anti Doping Agency rules which FIDE introduced in August he faced a two year ban, although the Anti-Doping people later indictaed that he might be traeted more leniently and given only a one year year because he had been unduly influenced by his captain.
Notably, although FIDE had changed their rules to introduce penalties for refusing a drug test, they had not informed the teams about the new WADA rules at the pre-Olympiad captains meeting; nor had they informed the Federations of the rule changes before the Olympiad.
When Press entered the drug testing area, he offered to list any medications he was taking but declared that he would not agree to give a sample unless he could be presented with some evidence that he was suspected of taking illegal substances.
The testers dismissed Press but later called him back to ask him to read the regulations so that there could be no doubt that he knew the consequences of his actions.
Press later expressed the view that even had he changed his mind and agreed to a test, the integrity of the process was already in tatters, since he could have taken (or purged his body of) anything in the intervening hour.
Press was told that he would face a hearing two days later to decide his penalty for refusing the test, an extraordinarily short time in which to prepare a defence.
Speaking before the hearing Press was defiant. He accepted that he might face a two year ban from international chess, a ban which would exclude him from the 2006 Olympiad in Turin. "This is a question of both process and civil liberties. Our team had discussed the matter and I had already declared that I would not take the test if asked. Of course I am only an amateur player and do not rely on chess for my livelihood so the ban is not as serious for me as for a professional."
Press' stance put FIDE in an awkward position. FIDE has always regarded drug testing as a show for the benefit of the International Olympic Committee, proudly proclaiming chess 'clean' because no chessplayer has ever tested positive to steroids or any of the other drugs on the WADA list.
Since no drug has yet been found which demonstrably helps chess players, even the head of FIDE's Anti-Doping Commission last month suggested that the whole exercise is pointless. However FIDE has decided to continue with drug testing and Press soon became the first victim of their farcical policy.
The FIDE Anti-Doping Tribunal was held on the final morning of the Olympiad.
Press defended his position, explaining that the testers had failed to provide him with the new regulations (as required), while a Spanish lawyer Roberto Ferrer declared that the release form which the players were required to sign before the test was deficient under Spanish law. (Organisations can face fines of up to 300,000 Euros for breaching privacy laws.) Press and his representatives were arguing that the FIDE drug tests were conducted illegally and therefore Press could not be found guilty of refusing an illegal drug test.
The Tribunal, made up of two lawyers, a doctor and two Grandmasters (Dolmatov and Speelman) retired to consider their verdict. Speelman later revealed that there was no discussion by the Tribunal of guilt or innocence as the Chairman immediately moved on to debating the penalty which must be imposed. A warning and removal of all the points scored by Press in the Olympiad was proposed - a proposition strongly opposed by Speelman (and more quietly by Dolmatov), who believed that a one year ban (if necessary) might be preferable for an amateur player than taking the points away from his team. However the three non-playing members of the panel insisted that there need be no ban - just as predicted by the head of the FIDE Medical Commission Jana Bellin in that morning's edition of  'El Pais' - but a points penalty was imposed.
Only later was it realised that one member of the Tribunal had a personal interest in having a points penalty imposed. Dr Gajadin was also a player, who had lost to the lower rated Press during the Olympiad. Should Press' points be annulled he would save rating points and his team, Surinam, would move ahead of Papua New Guinea on points.
Dr Gajadin did not declare his personal interest and cast the decisive vote to have Press lose all his points.
The Tribunal later imposed the identical penalty on the Bermuda player Bobby Miller, even though the circumstances of his refusal of the test was completely different.
Press was devastated by the decision and made an impassioned statement to the Tribunal after the decision was announced that for him this was the worst possible penalty, hurting his team when he had no idea at the time that his personal decision to refuse a test could affect his teammates. Press' options are now limited. He can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne but this is such an expensive route for any person, let alone a player from the Southern hemisphere, that it is only a route which can be taken by professional sportspeople.
FIDE may win this small battle, with the help of a compromised Tribunal, but the bad publicity which will come from these cases can only aid those players who are fighting the larger war to end drug testing in chess.

GM Ian Rogers