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Drugs In Sport: Sample of modern ills for chess

DRUG-TESTING has reached a cerebral corner of the sports world: chess.

A small sample of players at a Spanish team championship tournament under way on the Mediterranean island of Menorca were stunned to learn that they had to provide a urine sample under doctor's supervision, the daily El Mundo reported yesterday.

The Spanish Chess Federation said it was acting on orders from the government body that oversees sport in Spain and submits athletes to spot checks for use of banned performance-enhancing substances.

In Sunday's case, doctors were looking for traces of amphetamines, tranquillisers, heart medicines called beta blockers and other drugs that are also banned in physically strenuous sports, El Mundo said.

Competitors and tournament officials alike said they had never heard of a chess player taking drugs to become sharper, although a good strong cup of coffee was not unheard of. Even then, the caffeine level in players' blood is restricted under Spanish federation rules.

Jordi Magem, one of the players tested on Sunday, took it in his stride. "I think it is okay, although I know people who are against it because they feel humiliated," he said.