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Pro Gaming League, ESL, to Begin Drug Testing Players

It needs to start somewhere…

Following professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player, Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen, admitting to the not-so-secret secret that many league professional players regularly take Adderall, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) has announced in an email to Motherboard they will begin testing for and policing performance-enhancing drugs at their events.

The details for the policy will be fully revealed soon. But right now, the ESL has “taken steps to move forward with drugs policing, education, and prevention among participants of [their] competitions.”


In an interview with Mohan “Launders” Govindasamy on his eSports web show, Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen openly spoke about he and his teammates taking Adderall during ESL One Katowice in Poland in March:

For those who do not know, Adderall is a psychostimulant drug — much like Ritalin — clinically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Recreationally, it is used as a cognitive and performance enhancer.

So, will the ESL do anything to penalize a player after they admit to using performance-enhancing drugs at a past event? According to ESL Head of Communications, Anna Rozwandowicz, they will not. “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.”

It is important to note that the ESL — while being one of the biggest eSports leagues — is not the only eSports organization that holds professional events. Major League Gaming (MLG), League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), and Dota 2‘s The International (TI) are three other very big organizations in eSports that are currently not policing the use performance-enhancing drugs in professional gaming events. But then again, think about how long it took the MLB to begin policing performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, it is going to take time before regulation becomes standard practice.

UPDATE: The ESL issued a press release regarding their new policy on performance-enhancing drugs:

ESL Electronic Sports League

ESL to create anti-PED esports policy with support of NADA

The growing visibility and popularity of esports, as well as increasing prize pools make it not only more tempting for teams and players to break the rules, but also more damaging to our sport as a whole when they do. ESL has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding the integrity of our competitions and providing a fair playground for professional players. With this in mind, today we’re announcing further steps our organization is taking, to determine and enforce guidelines and rules surrounding the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) at ESL events.

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.

ESL will use the expertise of NADA and WADA to create a PEDs prevention program, which will be distributed to all players participating in esports competitions organized, hosted or produced by ESL. The goal of this program is to ensure players are provided with information and structural support to help them manage the physical and emotional pressure that the highest level of competitive gaming puts on many of them.

In the meantime, we also wish to take immediate action to ensure the company values of exemplary sportsmanship and integrity are guarded. With that in mind, we are going to administer first randomized PEDs skin tests at the ESL One Cologne event this August. Our aim is to perform those tests at every event in the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL ESEA Pro League competitions.

ESL will remain proactive in ensuring all professional players and organisations involved in our competitions will be informed about the current status of this initiative. Players participating in individual competitions under the ESL brand will be reached through their respective team managers and/or owners with updates on changes in the tournament rules. This will include the list of banned substances, the methods of testing, and the disciplinary actions for players caught using PEDs and/or admitting to having used them.

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