October 05, 2002
Those drug-testing blues

Ken Goldstein was the first to call my attention to a little tempest at the World Bridge Federation's Open Championships in Montreal this August. One of the gold medal winners, an Iceland-born American named Hjordis Eythorsdottir was denied her silver medal when she refused to submit to a drug test. The tests are now apparently mandatory as bridge is trying to get certified for the Olympics.

This week's Houston Press has more on the story, as they've interviewed Dan Morse, a local bridge champ who was the team captain and apparently the drug testing enforcer in Montreal.

I've played tournament bridge in Houston since 1988, so I know Dan Morse pretty well. He's about the best person they could have gotten for this job. Given the habits of some of bridge's best players, it's not a task I envy.

This was the most amusing part of the story:

The WBF went easy on the first two drug users detected. They were not penalized. One had taken prescription antihistamines for allergies -- Morse says the IOC considers them performance enhancers, but that they don't provide any competitive edge to bridge players.

Results on the second player showed the presence of alcohol. "We don't think that's a performance-enhancing drug," Morse says. "If you're drunk, then that's a conduct issue."

If alcohol is a banned substance, the WBF and American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) may as well give up their quixotic quest. The second best part of attending a bridge tournament is discussing the hands in the hotel bar after each session. Forbidding alcohol would be like forbidding Gatorade at a track meet.

Good luck, Dan. You're going to need it.

UPDATE: The snail mail just came, and with it my October ACBL Bridge Bulletin. Here's what they have to say about this incident:

The tournament was marred by an incident involving Hjordis Eythorsdottir, a member of the silver-medal team in the McConnel Cup. Eythorsdottir was disqualified by the World Bridge Federation for refusing to take a drug test after the competition. She has since engaged an attorney to represent her in the matter.

Eythorsdottir, a professional player from Huntsville, AL, said she was taking diet pills before the tournament and that when she arrived she asked several tournament officials if taking the pills would be a problem. She said she never received an answer.

She said that when she was chosen to take a drug test, she again inquired about whether the pills would be a problem. Again, she said, she received no answer and that she refused to take the test becuse "frankly, I didn't know what to do."

The WBF issued a press release in mid-September saying that the drug-test requirement was part of the published conditions of contest for the tournament, including a proviso that "refusal to take a drug test is consequently subject to penalties."

There'll be more in next month's edition. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 05, 2002 to Other sports

Im glad to see that there are other tournament bridge players in the Blogosphere. I just hope that the ACBL never starts testing for caffiene.

Posted by: dwight meredith on October 6, 2002 2:10 PM

No caffeine? Now you're really scaring me. May as well stay home and play Go Fish. :-)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 6, 2002 5:09 PM