A few months ago, ESPN 2 aired matches of Heroes of the Storm on cable TV. Sports fans flipped out. But now, competitive video gaming has taken another leap into becoming a “real” sport: drug testing. And it may change the structure of competitive gaming as it is now.
Starting this August, Electronic Sports League (E.S.L.) will begin comprehensive drug-testing of its players after pro gamer Kory Friesen admitted he and other competitors take Adderall and other drugs to up their game.
“We were all on Adderall,” said Friesen in the video interview above. “I don’t even give a fuck.” Adderall, a stimulant primarily used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is commonly used among players along with Ritalin, Vyvanse, propanolol, and Selegiline, which is meant to treat Parkinson’s. These drugs pose a health risks in relation to addiction, serotonin syndrome, and fatal overdosing. The leagues have very few drug policies in place, if at all.
Competitive gaming can be seen live and in-person, but a chunk of preliminary rounds take place online and remote. It’s easy for competitors to take a dose and roll over to their computer. But shifting to totally live play is one measure to curb abuse, or so the E.S.L. hopes.
“We want to create a level playing field for all competitors and maintain the integrity of the sport,” said James Lampkin, VP of professional gaming at E.S.L. in an interview with The New York Times. “A lot of this is going to affect the nature of the entire industry.”
The E.S.L. have enlisted the help of two anti-doping bodies, NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) to serve as architects for the E.S.L.’s drug policies. The two bodies have built the same policies used in cycling and the Olympics.
Competitive video gaming has grown exponentially in the last decade. Numerous leagues are active and millions of dollars are invested by gaming publishers and energy drink companies seeking to sponsor the next big thing. According to The New York Times, the e-sports industry could surpass $250 million in revenue from over 113 million fans worldwide. Online services like Twitch have allowed millions to watch tournaments online while allowing players to interact directly with them.