World's Top Bridge Player Flunks Drug Test

Geir Helgemo suspended, loses titles
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2019 3:40 PM CST
World's Top Bridge Player Flunks Drug Test
Stimulants can keep bridge players alert in long tournaments, an expert said.   (AP Photo/US Playing Card Company)

The doping scandal among players has reached a new frontier: card games. Geir Helgemo, the No. 1 bridge player in the world, has been suspended after failing a drug test at a tournament in Orlando last fall. Synthetic testosterone and the female fertility drug clomifene were in his system, the Guardian reports. Helgemo will lose all titles, medals, and points from the 2018 World Bridge Series. The federation belongs to the International Olympic Committee and adheres to World Anti-Doping Agency rules. "It is his responsibility not to take substances that are on the doping list," said Kari-Anne Opsal, president of the Norwegian Bridge Federation, "even though in this instance they are not performance enhancing in bridge."

Helgamo, who is Norwegian but plays for Monaco, accepts the penalties, the World Bridge Federation said on its website; his suspension ends in November. Failed drug tests are not unheard of in the world of bridge. The anti-doping agency said that 22% of test results in 2016 came back positive, the Washington Post reports, mostly for "diuretics and other masking agents." A doctor and doping expert told the Independent in 2015: “Bridge is played in tournaments two or three weeks long. People tend to get tired, so a stimulant can keep you awake during play." (Curling also has dealt with doping.)

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