Like many sports personalities, eSports competitors perform in packed stadiums, are watched by millions online, and can suffer career-devastating injuries.
eSports, where professional gamers play competitive matches, often for cash prizes, have a worldwide audience that reached 134m viewers this year.
Soon these digital gaming leagues will have another thing in common with the world of physical sports: anti-doping testing.
The eSports market is worth £46m in Europe, nearly £400m worldwide, and matches are watched around the world on online channels like Twitch (which Amazon acquired for over £600m in 2014).
The world’s largest gaming organisation, the ESL, has announced plans to implement a comprehensive drug testing program with support from NADA, the Nationale Anti Doping Agentur, located in Bonn, Germany, and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, Montreal.
“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 said in a statement.
“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”.
Drug abuse has been increasingly recognised at eSport gaming tournaments, where players take the likes of Adderall and Propranolol to improve their mental stimulation and keep their cool.
Professional gamers and consultants alike have admitted a knowledge of the widespread problem and earlier this month Kory “Semphis” Friesen, a former member of high-profile pro gaming team Cloud9, admitted in a video interview, “we were all on Adderall”.
“It’s pretty obvious if you listen to the comms,” Friesen said, referring to the frantic in-game chat channels.
Not only does drug abuse sully the reputation of the sport, but that of its sponsors, which include many big businesses like Coke, Intel and Nissan.
Furthermore, while players have been known to retire from repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and trigger finger, use of Adderall has been linked to nausea, diarrhoea, heart failure, hair loss, hallucinations, and erectile dysfunction.
The ESL will start checking for substance abuse at the ESL One Cologne event this August, and plans to use PED skin-swab tests to highlight any users.
A number of eSports leagues, including the ESL, already have rules against illegal drug use, but have previously failed to implement them as drugs testing has not been commonplace.
This post appeared originally on The Memo on July 24, 2015
Photo from ESL.