The Electronic Sports League will begin drug testing its competitors. This news comes after a professional Counter Strike: Global Offensive player, Kory “Semphis” Friesen revealed that he and some of his teammates in Cloud9 had used Adderall during a tournament. The issue of pro gamers’ drug use is not a new one in the high-pressure world of esports. (Adderall is a psychostimulant traditionally used to treat the symptoms of ADHD. It has long been used illicitly to enhance performance during high-intensity focus sessions like exams. Or, apparently, ESL tournaments.)
The official ESL Rulebook states that “To play a match, be it online or offline, under the influence of any drugs, alcohol, or other performance enhancers is strictly prohibited, and may be punished with exclusion.”
The tournament Friesen and the rest of the Cloud9 team participated in was worth $250,000, so it’s a pretty big deal that they were essentially cheating. That is, allegedly. Motherboard reports that Friesen and the other Cloud9 members will not be punished. Anna Rozwandowicz, Head of Communications at ESL, said “We have no way of knowing whether Semphis, despite what he said, has actually taken Adderall or not. We can’t punish someone if we are not 100 percent sure he is guilty. And as we have no way to test it anymore (we’re four months after the event), we won’t take action in this specific case.” Friesen was dropped from Cloud9. However, he joined another team—Nihilum—shortly after.
The ESL will be partnering with NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur) in Germany, as well as the World Anti Doping Agency, in an effort to expand the new policy to all participating regions. They hope to “research and determine an anti-performance-enhancing drugs policy that is fair, feasible and respects the privacy of the players, whilst simultaneously providing conclusive testing results.” Rozwandowicz says that they haven’t outlined the details of the new policy yet. But they have taken steps to increase “drugs policing, education, and prevention among participants.”
The ESL is, of course, only one agency among many. We don’t know yet what other organizations’ response to the move will be.
Performance-enhancing drugs among esports participants isn’t exactly a secret. Like any sport, esports often have a lot of prestige and a lot of money at stake. It’s no surprise that many of the same problems that plague traditional sports also carry over into esports. The problems are not limited to drug use; there are also injuries, match-fixing, and other issues at play.