Doping in eSports: Buck stops with game developers to ensure adherence to anti-doping practices

The very fact that game developers are most affected by the success of their respective eSport makes it their responsibility to ensure the competitive integrity of the game is maintained.

Anand Krishnaswamy December 16, 2020 16:08:33 IST
Doping in eSports: Buck stops with game developers to ensure adherence to anti-doping practices

The onus to ensure anti-doping practices are respected in esports rests with game developers. Representational Image.

In the last few days, the talk about doping in eSports has come back to the fore. A CIS region Dota 2 coach, Timur "Ahilles" Kulmuhambetov has made claims about OG as a team choosing to dope to gain an advantage during competitions. OG in the last few years has cemented itself as one of the most successful Dota 2 teams in history, becoming the first and only team in the eSport to have won ‘The International’ (TI) on more than one occasion (2018 and 2019).

The feat was achieved using the same roster, and as such, today they stand as the defending champions for whenever the next edition of TI takes place. If the claims by Ahilles are to be believed, the achievements were made possible only due to the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as Adderall.

This is the second time that claims have been made about OG doping. Earlier, it was an analyst and commentator from the CIS region, Sergey "Smile" Revin, aka ARS-ART, who made similar claims during one of his streams. He was, however, quite prompt in taking back the claims and issuing a public apology. The incident related to ARS-ART is also brought up by Ahilles and he claims that the only reason the apology was issued was because he did not want to get “run over”.

The recent claims against OG bring up a particularly important issue. Are the games' developers doing enough to ensure doping does not become acceptable within competitions?

To understand how the issues of doping have evolved over the last several years within eSports, one needs to look into the history of proven doping scandals and the actions taken by eSports organisations due to them.

While for the most part, doping has remained largely under the radar within eSports - caffeine and nicotine junking not counted as a form of doping - there is still one major scandal that has rocked the world of professional eSports. In 2015, Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen, a well-known Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) player publicly spoke about the widespread abuse of Adderall in top-rated events.

In an interview, he is quoted as saying “we are all on Adderall.” He went on to explain how it is pretty evident from their in-game communications as well. This incident blew the lid on this situation with Adderall abuse and was just followed by several other incidents of players admitting to using Adderall or similar drugs during competition. In another high-profile incident around the same time, Tyler ‘Calm Mentality’ Mozingo admitted to using the drug, he stated that the drug offered him several benefits while playing competitively, such as ‘laser-like focus’.

The fall-out of these incidents has been the adoption of an anti-doping policy by ESL for all ESL sponsored events. In 2016, ESL tied up with National Anti-Doping Agentur (NADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) along with several other top eSports organisations to set up the World Esports Association (WESA), in a bid to implement standardised regulations. This has served as a great example; in 2017, the Philippines declared eSports professional as athletes and as such, they are subject to the same anti-doping tests as regular sportspersons. In 2018, the FIFA eWorld Cup introduced drug testing for the first time.

However, while there are several steps taken by certain event organisers within the world of professional eSports to ensure players are not doping, many game developers still do not pay enough attention to the matter.

One example of such a situation is Dota 2. While the ESL events for the eSport have strict regulations related to doping, at the same time, Valve Corporation, the company behind the game Dota 2, does not enforce such strict anti-doping regulations on their own events. The result of this is that ‘The International’, which is the single largest eSports event in terms of prize pool and the most prestigious event for Dota 2 players, has no proper regulations in place as of today.

If the situation related to doping in eSports is looked at in an objective manner, the game developers are the party responsible for the creation of an eSport. The very fact that they are most affected by the success of the said eSport makes it their responsibility to ensure the competitive integrity of the game is maintained.

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