There are sports in which you have come to expect a certain amount of doping. Cycling, for instance: so much doping. Weightlifting. Any Winter Olympic sport that involved Russians who competed at the 2014 Sochi Games. Just pick one. If you believe the International Olympic Committee, they doped like there would be no doping tomorrow.
And then there are sports (games? pastimes?) that would seem immune to doping because why bother? At the top of that list is bridge, which last we checked is a card game played while seated. But you would be wrong thinking that because the world’s top-ranked bridge player just got himself suspended for doping.
As announced Thursday by the World Bridge Federation, Geir Helgemo was suspended for one year after he tested positive for synthetic testosterone and Clomiphene, a fertility drug that accelerates testosterone production in men, after September’s World Bridge Series in Orlando. The WBF said Helgemo — a Norwegian-born player who now competes for Monaco — admitted to doping and accepted his suspension, which ends Nov. 20.
Because the WBF is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, it must follow the IOC’s anti-doping policies, hence the drug testing after major competitions.
The sedentary world of top-level bridge has somehow been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s radar for years. WADA’s 2016 summary of that year’s drug-test results found that 22 percent of the doping tests done on bridge players came back positive, up from 3.6 percent in 2014. Most of the 2016 positives were for “diuretics and other masking agents,” though one was for “anabolic agents.”
“Bridge is played in tournaments two or three weeks long,” Jaap Stomphorst, a physician and doping expert who works with the WBF, told the Independent in 2015. “People tend to get tired, so a stimulant can keep you awake during play.”
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