Although performance-enhancing drugs have always been a means for athletes to gain a competitive edge, when it comes to esports, the use of steroids might seem unusual. Yet, while traditional PEDs and their physical buffs don’t offer much advantage to professional gamers, attention-heightening drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Valium are becoming a real issue in the gaming industry.
Restrictions on the use of a drug like Adderall, a prescription amphetamine typically used to deal with conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy, aren’t new when it comes to more traditional sports; leagues such as the NFL and the MLB have already established penalties for players caught doping. Considering the drug’s ability to help with focus, fend off exhaustion, improve reaction times, and more, the appeal for pro gamers is apparent, which raises the question of whether the esports industry will follow the regulatory lead of the NFL and MLB.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, around 6.1 million children in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Disorder. The correlating prescriptions for medications such as Adderall and Ritalin, along with the fact that ADHD and ADD are lifelong conditions, make access to such medications relatively easy.
Statistics from addiction support websites such as Addiction Hope.com and Addiction Center.com note that 6.4% of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 have used Adderall either recreationally or as a means of gaining an academic advantage, with full-time college students twice as likely to abuse Adderall as their peers not in college. All this is to say that the use of such medications beyond their prescribed purposes is practically commonplace in certain environments already.
As a result, the abuse of Adderall and similar drugs in esports has become a similarly widespread issue. In a 2015 article from Eurogamer.net, writer Simon Parkin talks with a number of pro gamers who refused to go on the record yet admitted to taking Adderall as a performance enhancer.
A number of allegations have been aimed at specific players over the years with some openly admitting to doing so. Kory “Semphis” Friesen, former Cloud 9 Player, admitted to using Adderall along with other players. An article from Engadget.com examines the video interview in which Friesen said “The ESL (Electronic Sports League) comms were kinda funny in my opinion — I don’t even care, we were all on Adderall.”
So, if the use of performance enhancing drugs in esports is a known issue, the question becomes, what are the powers-that-be doing about it? While the International e-Sports Federation(IeSF) has signed on with the World Anti-Doping Agency, they haven’t officially outlawed player use of PEDs. Instead of officially banning the use of such drugs, a lot of leagues and associations have rules requiring players to follow the laws and restrictions of the government wherever they are competing. While this would imply restrictions on the abuse of drugs such as Adderall, there’s nothing explicitly clear about such rules.
The Electronic Sports League has prohibited the use of PEDs in matches, yet they don’t test players for such drugs. As esports continues to become more mainstream, the ways in which players’ use of PEDs undermines the sport may prove a hurdle in the industry’s continued development.
It seems only a matter of time until drug testing and stricter enforcing, as well as clarification of the rules surrounding PEDs become the norm. If drug testing works for traditional sports, it would work for esports as well.