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Understanding E-Doping and need for fair competition in E-Sports

Competitive video gaming has become one of the most expeditiously growing segments of the sports and entertainment industry. Esports, as the practice of competitive video gaming has been designated, is a term that represents a variety of different game genres.

Research by data analysts Statista has estimated an ecumenical eSport audience of 385 million and market intelligence provider Newzoo’s research has suggested that eSport revenues will reach USD 696 million by 2017 and USD 1.5 billion by 2020.[i]As esports’ magnification perpetuates, the industry is commencing to face a multitude of potential challenges.

While some problems—including match-fixing and doping has been well documented, but it still lacks uniformity and enforcement as there is no uniform body. The current regulatory landscape circumventing esports is skeptical. In many devoirs, how esports perpetuates to grow will depend on how the activity is accredited.

Political actors, regulators, industry stakeholders, educators, and, eventually, courts need to address the normative question most competitive activities deal with at their incipient stage:
Are esports sports in the traditional athletic sense? Or are video game competitions more proximately aligned with traditional sports and other types of performing arts and/or adeptness-predicated entertainment? [ii]

Esports tournaments vaunt millions of dollars in prize money. Competition between players is truculent, and marginal gains can make the distinction between winning and losing. It's an ideal environment for cheating. One such method employed by esports players is edoping, which principally involves utilizing hacks and cheat software to gain an upper hand over an opponent. For example, a cheat may empower one player to access the capability to see through walls or smoke or to enable an auto-aim feature to help with very difficult shots or to never have to reload. Preferably, cheaters use remote cyber-attacks to decelerate their opponents’ computers.[iii]

The esports landscape has seen a wide variety of edoping methods. Game software has been tweaked, and settings of the keyboard or mouse have been altered to perform a series of actions with a single click.

There are withal those that do not require any form of modification, for instance, "stream sniping" wherever the player watches the live broadcast of the match in which he/she is currently playing to get an intuition into their opponent. There have even been Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks during which a network is so inundated that it's forced to decelerate or shut down, which can be a criminal offense in countries like the USA and Australia.[iv]

Performance-enhancing drug use by players is additionally an issue in eSports and is recognized as a form of cheating, but only one promoter (Electronic Sports League) genuinely does anything about this, with an industry-leading anti-doping program. Professional Counter-Strike player, Kory Semphis Friesen, opened up a deep can of worms when he very casually admitted that he and his teammates were taking Adderall during a tournament, We were all on Adderall, he stated.

It was pretty conspicuous if you heedfully listened to the [communication channels].[v]In the wake of this confession, The ESL partnered with Germany’s anti-doping the agency, Nationale Anti-Doping Agentur (Nada), to create an anti-PED policy that is fair, feasible and conclusive while additionally reverencing the privacy of players, and will be meeting with the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to avail with the engendering, enforcement, and dissemination of the policy in the USA, Asia, and Australia.[vi]

Now, ESL has relinquished the details of its policy in a post on Reddit. As well as the conspicuous performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, growth hormones and everything else on the WADA list of vetoed substances, ESL promulgated they would withal be proscribing the utilization of marijuana during competitions - rustling a few feathers in a culture that is more associated with recreational drug use than most other athletics communities.[vii]

ESL has always had anti-drugs rules in its rulebook, but they were nebulous and poorly enforced, threatening contraveners with "exclusion" if they were caught utilizing drugs at tournaments. ESL now hopes that by partnering with established anti-drugs bodies who supervise a number of other, more traditional sports, the quandary of drug use will be solved. Players will be tested via a simple saliva test, issued desultorily throughout the competition.

If they test positive, penalties can range from deductions from points and winnings to disqualification and proscription of up to two years.[viii]Perhaps the edification we should take from this is that without addressing the underlying pressures of the uniquely stressful and demanding sport itself, teenage competitors are going to seek ways to relieve that stress. In lieu of just screening for another substance, we need to strike at the root of the issue.

Gaming is now taken solemnly by millions, taking an earnest look at our tactics – and our doping - is a natural result of this, so we require to resist shying away from the dialogue. The other considerable issue in edoping is the enforcement of sanctions across different events and tournaments. One scenario is where players vetoed from vying for edoping in one tournament are still participating in other tournaments. For example, Arrow Gaming players were handed a lifetime ban by Valve, publisher, and developer of the popular game, Dota 2, for match-fixing.[ix]

However, some tournament organizers still sanctioned the vetoed players to compete, with some players going on to become tournament champions. Another scenario is where a player could be proscribed by one game publisher but goes on to compete in a different game.

There are currently thousands of players vetoed for edoping across the eSport landscape. However, in some games, it is relatively simple to just open an incipient account and carry on playing. Because sundry leagues subsist too (ESL is the most astronomically immense, but there are many others), it is additionally possible for players to migrate from one league to another without much scrutiny because there is no central governing body.

This has been going on since eSport commenced in earnest around 15 years ago. In 2007/8 the facility of leagues to veto players for lengthy periods for cheating was challenged in the German courts in parallel cases visually perceived as the outliers for a potential class action. However, despite fairly cursorily drafted rules and little in the way of the procedure as lawyers would understand it, the challenges failed.

This was partly because of the rigorous approbation within the gaming community for players that cheat.[x]One possible solution to this is for other publishers to recognize sanctions imposed on a player and obviate the player from participating in their tournaments. This would appear to be the more ethical approach as it otherwise jeopardizes bringing the game into disrepute and undermining the integrity of the broader esports ecosystem.

It is eminent to mention that so far there have been a few numbers of endeavors to formulate a world governing body for sports. One of the major ones among them is International e-Sport Federation (IeSF). This federation predominantly aims at perpetually ameliorating e-Sports and promoting it in the terms of its values which, inter alia, includes humanitarian, scholastic, cultural, a unity of purport and faculty to promote tranquillity. IeSF is additionally kenned as the signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) and conducts doping tests on cyber athletes. But still, the congruousness of IeSF for the regulation of Esports is controvertible.

The reasoning of such can facilely be traced back to the very peculiarities of Esports as illustrated earlier. The Esports industry and its distinctive features have led IeSF to conceptualize on the framework of input legitimacy. Further, it additionally fixates on sundry aspects of this sector such as national membership, segregation of teams as per gender, uniformity in the application of rules. But they somehow overlooked the authenticity which shows the majority of the Esports are international. Consequently, focussing only on national governance that too in accordance with traditional sports has turned out to be a flawed one.

In countries suchas India, which are nota component of the ESIC, with veneration to issues such as doping which is not categorically addressed by the International Esports Federation (IeSF) andAsian Electronic Esports Federation (AESF), local laws are referred to in the case of disputes. Itis consequential for the players or agents to be vigilantof the governing law ofthe contract.[xi]

Governance in eSports is currently feeble, with no systematic federation of tournaments or leagues. The industry lacks structure and there are many bodies endeavoring to provide it. Yet, there is an intrinsical rebelliousness about gamers and the industry as a whole – many cerebrate that having something as prosaic as a governing body or player’s union would stifle the spirit of eSports. However, the desideratum is there, as issues around standardization, legitimacy, doping, player advocacy, and fair play proliferate.

There is something of a Wild West land-grab going on and, as ever, some bodies are more scrupulous than others. Whoever can provide governance in a way that players, viewers, and publishers accept will win the right to provide mainstream legitimacy to eSports. How stratified this will be (by the game? by geography? by stakeholder type?) remains a question. While not stringently a governance issue, the way numbers are reported around eSports is still obscure. Understanding the viewing audience numbers, for example, is hard because there are few standards and they definitely don’t equate to television viewership estimation methods.

Like in many traditional sports elite gamers are largely young men, often naïve and gullible, with little life experience. This can leave them susceptible to unscrupulous team owners and agents. It is withal very little in the way of player advocacy and education (albeit rumors of player associations circulate), career and financial management models are non-existent, nor is the pathway for post-competition life. The pressure on players can additionally leave them susceptible to the temptation of doping, and training regimes can hamper player welfare if not managed felicitously.

[i] Townley, S., & Townley, A. (2018). eSport: everything to play for.WIPO Magazine, (1), 22.
[ii] Holden, J., Kaburakis, A., & Rodenberg, R. (2017). The Future is Now: Esports Policy Considerations and Potential Litigation.SSRN Electronic Journal. DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2933506
[iii] Grayson, N. Top Counter-Strike Players Caught in Big Cheating Scandal. Retrieved from
[iv] Legality of DDoS: Criminal Deed vs. Act of Civil Disobedience. Retrieved from
[v] Luongo, C. (2018). ESI Gambling Report: Sex, drugs and esports. Retrieved from
[vi] Graham, B. Anti-doping in eSports: World's largest gaming organization will test for PEDs. Retrieved from
[vii] Pitt, T. Pro-gaming is a unique sport, which needs saving from more than doping. Retrieved from
[viii] Bolton, D. Professional video gaming leagues are finally cracking down on drug use in competitions. Retrieved from
[ix] Wee, R. (2018). Three key legal issues currently facing the Esports industry: A perspective from Asia. Retrieved from
[x] Smith, I. (2016). The continued rise of eSport – Efforts to combat match fixing and improve integrity. Retrieved from
[xi] Pandey, A. (2018). Esports in India - All that you need to know about Esports. Retrieved from

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