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Culture

Pro video gaming league to drug test competitors

Technically Incorrect: After a competitor admits to taking Adderall, the Electronic Sports League will begin testing for performance enhancers.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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The ESL will begin drug testing in August. Electronic Sports League

I confess that whenever I've watched competitive gamers stare with lightly insane eyes and twitch in an odd staccato, this thought has crossed my mind: They're on drugs, right?

It seems this has crossed other minds too, as the Electronic Sports League, renowned as one of the largest of its kind, has announced that it's going to test for performance-enhancing drugs.

On its own website, the ESL said: "In order to maintain the spirit of fair play within esports, ESL has partnered with NADA (the Nationale Anti Doping Agentur, which is headquartered in Bonn, Germany) to help create an anti-PED policy that is fair, feasible and conclusive while also respecting the privacy of players."

ESL also said it would meet with the World Anti-Doping Agency, in order to see how it can enforce its tests worldwide.

Testing will begin in August at ESL One Cologne, the world's largest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament held in Cologne, Germany. It will take the form of skin-testing. I have contacted the ESL to ask which specific drugs will be tested for. I will update, should I hear.

James Lampkin, ESL's vice-president of pro gaming, told ESPN that it had suspected there had been subterfuge for some time. However, he said that it was the admission of Kory "Semphis" Friesen that he and his team used Adderall -- a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can increase alertness and focus -- during a professional tournament that spurred this action. Friesen had been competing at an ESL Counter-Strike tournament in March, which had a prize pool of $250,000.

In a subsequent interview last week, Friesen said: "We were all on Adderall. I don't even give a f***. It was pretty obvious if you listened to the comms. People can hate it or whatever."

Lampkin told ESPN: "Psychostimulants like Adderall and beta-blockers look to be the most popular right now, but in the same way athletics commissions are constantly battling against the newest PEDs available, we expect our challenge to be similar."

The introduction of drug testing shows how big professional gaming has become. As other sports have shown, however, once there's a suspicion the problem can escalate very quickly.

One can only hope that gaming doesn't become like cycling, where every single competitor is looked upon with jaundiced eyes and talked about with a sniffy tone.