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Electronic Sports League to implement anti-doping policy, including drug testing (update)

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The Electronic Sports League, one of the world's foremost professional gaming organizations, plans to introduce policies intended to prevent competitors from using performance-enhancing drugs, the company announced today.

"In order to maintain the fair play spirit of our sport, ESL has partnered with NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur, located in Bonn, Germany) to help research and determine an anti-PEDs policy that is fair, feasible and respects the privacy of the players, whilst simultaneously providing conclusive testing results," said the ESL in a prepared statement.

the prevention program will "ensure players are provided with information and structural support"

The ESL will also meet with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the group that sets standards and coordinates efforts to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs in athletic sports. The ESL hopes to involve WADA in the process of coming up with its policy and enforcing it around the world.

In addition to developing an anti-PED policy, the ESL will create a prevention program that is intended to "ensure players are provided with information and structural support to help them manage the physical and emotional pressure that the highest level of competitive gaming puts on many of them," according to the press release.

It will take some time for the policy and prevention program to be implemented. In the meantime, the ESL has begun taking steps to curtail the use of PEDs. The organization said today that it will perform randomized drug testing, for the first time, at this year's ESL One Cologne event next month. The ESL aims to do skin tests at "every event in the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL ESEA Pro League competitions."

We've reached out to the ESL for more details on skin tests and the substances they can detect, and will update this article with any information we receive.

The ESL's announcement of its plans for an anti-PED policy follows an admission earlier this month by a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player, Kory "Semphis" Friesen, that he used Adderall during the ESL One Katowice event in March. Adderall is a stimulant typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"we were all on Adderall"

"We were all on Adderall," said Friesen in a video interview. "I don't even give a fuck. It was pretty obvious if you listened to the comms. People can hate it or whatever."

Although the ESL's eventual policy will include discipline for players who admit to using PEDs, a spokesperson for the organization told Motherboard that the ESL will not take action against Friesen in this particular case because it cannot verify his claims.

"We have no way of knowing whether Semphis, despite what he said, has actually taken Adderall or not," the ESL representative said. "We can't punish someone if we are not 100 percent sure he is guilty. And as we have no way to test it anymore (we're four months after the event), we won't take action in this specific case."

Update: A spokesperson for the ESL told Polygon that the organization is "still discussing with NADA which tests will be best suited to the esports environment, and we will take their advice on this." The representative noted the ESL wants to ensure that whatever test it ends up choosing would be able to detect "the most commonly used PEDs (including those that contain amphetamine, like Adderall)."