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Competitive gamers set to face tournament drug testing

Amid revelations over drug use in competitive gaming, the ESL announce plans to introduce testing at tournaments

ESports have taken a step towards comparability to established sporting competitions recently, due to suffering the negative publicity of participants relying on performance-enhancing drugs in the pursuit of victory. The Electronic Sports League (ESL) have taken strides to work alongside the World Anti-Doping Agency to ensure fair play among the gamers.

This follows the revelation that Counter-Strike professional gamer Kory Friesen, aka Semphis, admitted that he and others in his team had taken ADHD medication Adderall in a tournament back in March. Adderall increases a player's concentration, awareness and initiative, making it an ideal performance-enhancing drug in the realm of eSports.

This revelation has led many experts within the video game and competitive gaming environment to believe that drug use is becoming a widespread problem within the competitive gaming environment.

Considering the massive popularity of many eSports tournaments on streaming sites, and subsequently increasing the prize money pools, drug use could become a major problem without tougher restrictions

The ESL released the following statement regarding the new drug testing regulations set to take place in their tournaments:

“In order to maintain the fair play spirit of our sport, ESL has partnered with NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur, located in Bonn, Germany) to help research and determine an anti-PEDs policy that is fair, feasible and respects the privacy of the players, whilst simultaneously providing conclusive testing results. Additionally, ESL will meet with WADA (World Anti Doping Agency, with headquarters located in Montreal, Canada) to actively involve them in the making, enforcing and further internationalizing of this policy to regions like the US, Asia and Australia.”

The company have stated a desire to introduce skin-testing at its next big tournament in Cologne in August, although as of yet a list of banned substances have yet to be released. Also, initiatives have been put forward to educate professional gamers of the dangers of drug use, as well as coping with the mental pressure of competitive gaming.

This is a necessary and good step in the right direction, but still is only the first step of many more required going forward.

Currently, the ESL is the only eSport organization to have made plans to introduce drug testing at events

Other organizations like Major League Gaming (MLG) have yet to make announcements in this vein.

Furthermore, due to the costly nature of drug testing within any sport or enterprise, it is questionable as to how far these regulations will reach. Indeed, ESL have already told sources that testing will only take place in large tournaments, and not for qualifiers for such events. This could prove just as damaging, as numerous teams and gamers progress might progress to the finals of tournaments on the back of illegal drug usage.

Still, it is important to send the right message of playing fairly and safely going forward. Of course, this is only the first step of what will hopefully become a wider phenomenon of strict policies in the upcoming months and years. But, this is undoubtedly a necessary occurrence, and one that will be valuable in building the legitimacy of competitive gaming in the long-term.

Published Jul. 24th 2015

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