Questions About Performance-Enhancing Drugs in eSports Raised Again

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Accusations involving performance-enhancing drugs used by professional video game players that have been circling in the eSports community have been raised again due to an admission by one professional in a recent interview.

Much like in the NFL and NBA, performance-enhancing drugs like Adderall are at the center of a controversy surrounding whether or not some professional gamers have an unfair advantage.

In a July interview at Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) 2015, Call of Duty coach Kory “Semphis” Friesen claimed, “The ESL comms were kinda funny in my opinion, I don’t even care, we were all on Adderall.” He continued, “I don’t even give a fuck, like it was pretty obvious like if you listen to the comms, like people can hate it or whatever.” After being asked, “Everyone does adderall at ESEA (E-Sports Entertainment Association) LAN right?” Semphis replied, “Yeah.”

Meanwhile, James “Clayster” Eubanks is a professional Call of Duty gamer who has won nearly $100,000 from tournaments but was accused of taking Adderall. In a Reddit Q&A session, Eubanks said he has taken prescription amphetamines for his ADD since he was eight years old, but he said he would “never hand it out to [his] teammates like candy or anything” before accusing members from the opposing team for being on the drug.

Similarly, when offered Adderall at his second tournament, an eSports player identified only as “Steven” in a Eurogamer interview said, “I had taken Adderall for a while when I was younger to treat my ADHD, so I knew from prior experience that it helps with stress and concentration.” After completing the tournament, he got a prescription and became addicted to Adderall. He said, “I’ve seen people sell it at tournaments for anything from $10 to $40 a pill. I was on a high dosage. A 25mg pill would last me six hours. But the average user that doesn’t take it regularly would probably be fine with 10-15mg.”

While Adderall and similar drugs have benefits, Alex Lim, secretary general for the International eSports Federation, says they can have repercussions such as nausea, hair loss, and heart failure. After losing around 50 pounds taking Adderall and noticing that the effects were similar to those his cousin experienced on crystal meth, Steven quit taking the drug.

Bjoern Franzen, a global export management consultant for eSports, claimed in a 2014 NBC News report, “It’s a natural thing for some League of Legends players to pop three different kinds of smart drugs before a tournament game.” He says that while performance-enhancing drugs are prohibited in tournaments, players are not actually tested for them.

Michal Blicharz, managing director for the tournament-organizing Electronic Sports League (ESL), said, “I do know players who take Valium to calm their nerves, but that’s the extent of it. I don’t think that as a whole, players reach for drugs thinking that they will improve performance.” He mentioned that “the stakes in eSports are, bar a couple of exceptions, not high enough to inspire people to experiment with drugs, besides, top players make enough money from streaming their games on Twitch to not have to rely on prize winnings to make a living.”

But Franzen countered, saying that “today eSports is a multi-billion dollar industry and the prizes can reach a million dollars per player in some team games. If you can be 23 years old with a million dollars in the bank, life offers you a lot more opportunities. The incentive to find something that gives you an edge is high.”

However, competitor Sasha Hostyn, or “Scarlett,” has a different view. Hostyn is the #1 StarCraft 2 player for North America and states, “I have never done anything like Adderall and nobody that I know who plays the game has.” She says that “it’s probably happened, for sure,” but believes that “testing might be too invasive” a measure to prevent drug abuse.

Follow Rob Shimshock on Twitter.


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