In basically every professional sport, it is strictly prohibited to take performance-enhancing drugs. After all, taking drugs like anabolic steroids and human growth hormone can definitely give a football player, boxer, or wrestler a very unfair advantage against someone playing by the rules with no artificial boost. Last year, the esports industry jumped on this bandwagon, prohibiting the same exact list of drugs from use that are currently prohibited from every other professional sport. The question you may be asking yourself is, “Is that really necessary?”
Participants in the esports scene—management and coaches included—have long known of the use of certain drugs surrounding esports teams, according to veteran esports journalist Richard Lewis. It wasn’t until professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen admitted that himself, along with other members of Cloud9, were using Adderall during major tournaments that the ESL began to take this matter seriously. They have since partnered with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to combat drug use in esports tournaments.
The Argument for drug testing in esports
SEMPHIS and his teammates were taking Adderall, a psychostimulant, during a tournament with a $250,000 prize. When the stakes are that high, everyone really should be playing on a level playing field. Adderall can definitely give certain players an advantage, as its effects are an increased ability to focus for long periods of time. Esports competitors train for long hours, and can easily lose sleep during tournament days—or anytime really. For pros under pressure to perform and win these massive tournaments, it is very tempting—and not frowned upon not so long ago—to rely on certain substances to give them prolonged attention, and an edge during tournaments.
There are some problems with Adderall testing, however. It’s basically one of the easiest prescription to get. It’s really not hard to fake having ADHD. And if all it takes is a letter from a physician to prove you actually need the medication to be allowed to test positive during a tournament, I’m sure the number of doctor’s notes for Adderall are too many to count. I’m sure they’ve been trying their best to regulate the use of Adderall in esports so far, but I would bet plenty of pro gamers that don’t have ADHD are hopped up on the stuff.
The use of performance enhancing drugs can not only rig the game, but it can throw a wrench in the works for those of you who bet on esports. No matter how much you study a player’s playstyle, stats, or team mechanics, doping can easily turn the tables for many tournaments. The better team won’t always win if the opponent has been practicing twice as much, and has enhanced focus and attention. So if you’re betting on esports, you can feel a little more confident in your bets knowing that there is at least some action taken to prevent drug use in tournaments.
Are they taking it too far?
So Adderall is the big villain in that story. But what about some other drugs that are now prohibited from esports?
The list of prohibited drugs in the ESL is the same list used in the Olympics. While that may seem excessive, consider the fact that esports may soon be an Olympic sport. There may be no way around it. Sure, a lot of players are rather upset that Marijuana is on the list, but again, what can you do?
The ESL anticipated an uproar regarding the prohibition of marijuana, and addressed this issue specifically, stating that they will only test for marijuana from the first day of a tournament to the last. Players can rest easy knowing they can still practice baked at home, as long as they are clean by the first day of an event.
Other drugs on the list will be tested for more strictly. In the event that a player tests positive for any of these prohibited substances, players may suffer point deductions, disqualifications, or even a two-year ban from all ESL events. They aren’t messing around. If esports want to be considered on the same level as other professional athletes, drug tests are just one thing they will have to deal with.
The ESL has always had a strict no-doping policy, but until last year, they didn’t specify which drugs would be prohibited, and they certainly didn’t run uniform drug tests. It has been about a year since the launch of this new policy by the ESL, and the scene is still bustling along, and thriving. Unfortunately, so far it is unclear whether or not these drug tests have helped quell the doping problem in esports.
Either way, Esports pros are just going to have to learn how to play sober. It’s not that performance enhancing drugs are moral or immoral, but lest other players feel the need to sacrifice their health to win, there needs to be a level playing field. Particularly when prize money reaches six figures regularly and there are huge dollars in sponsorships and betting on esports at stake.