World's top-ranked contract bridge player suspended for doping

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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"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.'" --Washington Post, Mar 1, 2019
 

djbayko

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"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.'" --Washington Post, Mar 1, 2019
What's going on here exactly? Is this basically saying that roughly 22% of the general population would also fail stringent doping tests because we're not exactly watching what we take in and possibly have medications which are on the list? I'm assuming no significant link between bridge and PEDs.
 

luckiestman

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What's going on here exactly? Is this basically saying that roughly 22% of the general population would also fail stringent doping tests because we're not exactly watching what we take in and possibly have medications which are on the list? I'm assuming no significant link between bridge and PEDs.

I bet they are taking banned substances on purpose hoping to beat the test.
 

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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I played Contract Bridge quite seriously for about 25 years and I have no idea why players would be doping. Could it be that some think there is a pill or combination that improves mental capacity or concentration? I certainly found some trying to cheat but if you figure out their method, it benefits you more than them. I just thought it rather amusing to learn that world-class players were being tested.
 

LogansDad

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Bit it's a card game...

"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."
Oh, never mind. This tells me all I need to know right here.

The Russian gymnasts are cool, though, right?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I played Contract Bridge quite seriously for about 25 years and I have no idea why players would be doping. Could it be that some think there is a pill or combination that improves mental capacity or concentration? I certainly found some trying to cheat but if you figure out their method, it benefits you more than them. I just thought it rather amusing to learn that world-class players were being tested.
I know people who have played bridge very seriously.... :)

It probably has something to do with recovery. Tournament sessions are no joke.
 

trekfan55

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This has to be the funniest story I have ever read. I was looking for an Onion link.
 

oumbi

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Seriously? Who cares? It's bridge, not bridge climbing.
Some people seem to care for the same reason many other people care about other things.

NOT YOUR GRANDMA'S GAME
Million-Dollar Hobby: Inside the World of Big-Money Bridge
https://observer.com/2013/11/million-dollar-hobby-inside-the-world-of-big-money-bridge/

MAKING IT IN BIG-TIME BRIDGE
https://www.nytimes.com/1987/07/26/magazine/making-it-in-big-time-bridge.html

High rollers foot the bill for bridge pros
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/high-rollers-foot-the-bill-for-bridge-pros/article1215566/
 

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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This is an article about cheating by top-ranked bridge players from Newsweek, 23 Sep 2015. It's long but some of you might find it interesting. A short part is: "“Bridge is the easiest game in the world at which to cheat,” says Kit Woolsey, a highly accomplished bridge and backgammon player who has written extensively on both games, “because you’ve got a partner and you can signal.” His father was my bridge partner for a while.
 

djbayko

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This is an article about cheating by top-ranked bridge players from Newsweek, 23 Sep 2015. It's long but some of you might find it interesting. A short part is: "“Bridge is the easiest game in the world at which to cheat,” says Kit Woolsey, a highly accomplished bridge and backgammon player who has written extensively on both games, “because you’ve got a partner and you can signal.” His father was my bridge partner for a while.
I immediately wondered about this when I read your previous post about not holding the cards anymore due to signaling. People must come up with some pretty sophisticated ways of signaling each other. Because it has to not only work but also be undetectable...or at least indecipherable.

I think back to playing friendly games of pitch in college, trying to send ESP vibes to my playing partner and thinking to myself that we should have worked out a signaling system before the game.
 
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charlieoscar

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...and thinking to myself that we should have worked out a signaling system before the game.
Ages ago when I was in the military, we would play double-deck pinochle in the barracks for a nickel a point, so much a game, and so much a set. A game went to 500 points (or overage) and the pints were determined by subtracting however many the losers made from that total. This pair beat us one day, surprisingly though until I realized they were signaling suit holdings by the way the held their card. So, after losing a bit. I made an excuse to cut the game short and when I got a chance, I told my partner what had happened and said we'd get even. Since I could tell what their suit distributions were and I knew mine, I could tell what my partner's was. It was easy to get the pair to overbid and set them so we ended up winning games by close to 1000 points. It didn't take long for them to quit and never challenge us again and the one that owed me ended up asking if I would accept his Nikon 35mm camera in lieu of cash.

If you are going to cheat, you had better be able to outsmart your opponents.
 

djbayko

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Ages ago when I was in the military, we would play double-deck pinochle in the barracks for a nickel a point, so much a game, and so much a set. A game went to 500 points (or overage) and the pints were determined by subtracting however many the losers made from that total. This pair beat us one day, surprisingly though until I realized they were signaling suit holdings by the way the held their card. So, after losing a bit. I made an excuse to cut the game short and when I got a chance, I told my partner what had happened and said we'd get even. Since I could tell what their suit distributions were and I knew mine, I could tell what my partner's was. It was easy to get the pair to overbid and set them so we ended up winning games by close to 1000 points. It didn't take long for them to quit and never challenge us again and the one that owed me ended up asking if I would accept his Nikon 35mm camera in lieu of cash.

If you are going to cheat, you had better be able to outsmart your opponents.
I was fascinated by the article you posted, so I did some further research on YouTube and other sources. I'm astounded by how brazen some of the cheating was. The constant coughing. The obvious placement of the board in different positions - like, it was sometimes so far away from the middle of the table, that it would be annoying. Sure, it's a lot easier for me to say this with full hindsight. But while I understand that it might take a lot of work to break the actual code, I'm slightly shocked that players didn't know right away that something was going on based on these strange actions alone. Especially in a game that all players know is so susceptible to team cheating. I'd be watching everyone like a hawk.
 

charlieoscar

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...I'm astounded by how brazen some of the cheating was....
I think the first cheating I came across in bridge was Pass/I Pass, where a player would say one or the other depending on what he held. The meaning could be varied depending on when it was used in a bidding sequence and what the sequence had been. Not surprisingly, this was picked up and a rule imposed on players that one must always say one or the other but could not use both phrases. And today, there are rules about the tempo in bidding, drawing out words, etc., that didn't exist when I first started playing.
 

DanoooME

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Ages ago when I was in the military, we would play double-deck pinochle in the barracks for a nickel a point, so much a game, and so much a set. A game went to 500 points (or overage) and the pints were determined by subtracting however many the losers made from that total. This pair beat us one day, surprisingly though until I realized they were signaling suit holdings by the way the held their card. So, after losing a bit. I made an excuse to cut the game short and when I got a chance, I told my partner what had happened and said we'd get even. Since I could tell what their suit distributions were and I knew mine, I could tell what my partner's was. It was easy to get the pair to overbid and set them so we ended up winning games by close to 1000 points. It didn't take long for them to quit and never challenge us again and the one that owed me ended up asking if I would accept his Nikon 35mm camera in lieu of cash.

If you are going to cheat, you had better be able to outsmart your opponents.
I've played bridge, but double-deck pinochle is the best game on the planet.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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This is an article about cheating by top-ranked bridge players from Newsweek, 23 Sep 2015. It's long but some of you might find it interesting. A short part is: "“Bridge is the easiest game in the world at which to cheat,” says Kit Woolsey, a highly accomplished bridge and backgammon player who has written extensively on both games, “because you’ve got a partner and you can signal.” His father was my bridge partner for a while.
Nice humblebrag, though not sure how many people reading this thread get it. :)

You might be interested in this 2018 article trying to prove that the "great" Italian Blue Team cheated its way to success: https://bridgewinners.com/article/print/the-talk-that-never-was-the-blue-team-rule/.
 

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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Nice humblebrag, though not sure how many people reading this thread get it. :)

You might be interested in this 2018 article trying to prove that the "great" Italian Blue Team cheated its way to success: https://bridgewinners.com/article/print/the-talk-that-never-was-the-blue-team-rule/.
I played Auction Bridge when I was growing up and one day on my second overseas assignment (Italy) the pinochle game I was playing in at the Airman's Club ended and just after that I heard someone call out, "We need a fourth for bridge." So I hastened over to that table and proceeded to play auction bridge while the other three were playing contract bridge (that was soon straightened out). They were bridge playing fanatics and when their fourth roommate soon shipped out, I switched rooms and we played a lot of bridge (occasionally with two tables going on). This was at a time when the Italians were dominating the game and I started following their bidding systems (Roman Club, Neapolitan Club).

I do recall the use of screens in world championships to preclude cheating but as for the article you mention, I have some reservations about how well it proves cheating. The author makes some suppositions based on looking at all four hands. If there has only been one suit bid, you don't have many clues as to what the best opening lead may be; if you can see all four hands, then you can tell what you should lead. Also, Roman Club is an extremely difficult, artificial bidding system and you might have a hand that only marginally fits a particular opening bid or response, so you are forced to choose the best available bid. That could explain some things that the author believes to be cheating. I'm not saying there was no cheating but it has been about 50 years since I played that bidding system and I can no longer re-analyze each hand.