Pro gamers to face drug tests: A step toward legitimacy?

After one competitive gamer revealed his use of a prescription stimulant at a tournament for the shooter game, Counter Strike, the Electronic Sports League responded with a pledge to implement drug regulation policies.

Matthias Rietschel/AP/File
A participant plays a computer game during the Intel Friday Night Game, a competition of the ESL, Electronic Sports League, in Dresden, Germany on Aug. 7, 2009

Some professional video game players may be using a special cheat code: prescription drugs.

“We were all on Adderall,” said competitive video game player Kory Friesen, in an interview with Mohan Govindasamy. “Just throwing that out there for the fans, that’s how ya get good.”

He later told The New York Times “he used Adderall out of desperation when his team was in the midst of a losing spell” but also said “you don’t just take Adderall and instantly become better.”

Adderall is commonly prescribed for those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  

The Electronic Sports League (ESL) responded with a statement on Thursday, saying it would introduce anti-doping guidelines for e-sports, a popular term for professional gaming.

Anna Rozwandowicz, head of communications at ESL, told Motherboard the league doesn’t plan to take action against Mr. Friesen and his team because the drugs would have already passed through their systems, which means they could not be “100 percent sure he is guilty.”

Friesen was part of gaming team Cloud9 that participated in a tournament for the shooter game "Counter-Strike," for prize money totaling $250,000, according to Motherboard.

Jack Etienne, owner of Cloud9, said that the team was willing to submit to drug tests prior to events, according to the Times.

The league plans to work with two international agencies that have experience with drug regulation programs for professional cycling and the Olympics, to test players for performance-enhancing drugs, their statement says. The first regulations will be implemented at a tournament in August.

Motherboard recommends these changes be accompanied by regulations for “hacking, match-fixing, and hand injuries players can suffer from over their careers.”

The BBC noted the league will go beyond drug tests as they announced a drug prevention program that will include help for gamers in coping with the stresses of competition.

The New York Times notes there will be unique challenges to regulating drugs in e-sports: “While traditional athletes perform at live events in the same location, some preliminary e-sports competitions are held online, with players scattered around the country and abroad. No one except a roommate might see one of them popping a pill before an important qualifying round.”

James Lampkin, vice president of profession gaming at ESL, told The Times “the whole industry may have to switch from online competitions to predominately live, in-person games.”

“The more e-sports grows, the more it is going to be sanctioned by a governing body, and it was only a matter of time before this was part of it,” Hector Rodriguez, owner of OpTic Gaming, a professional team, said, according to The Times. “We’re becoming an actual sport, so that’s why I welcome it. It’s an indication of growth.”

Newzoo, a games research firm, estimates the industry has more than 113 million fans worldwide who will contribute to annual revenues above $250 million.

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