ESL Speaks Out After CS:GO Adderall Usage Claims

eSports organisation ESL has issued an official statement regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs in its competitions. The statement comes after a pro CS:GO player stated “We were all on Adderall” when speaking about his team’s performance at the ESL One Katowice event.

Here’s the necessary background:

Adderall is a brand name for a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It’s also used to aid focus and concentration, hence it cropping up here as a performance enhancer.

Kory “Semphis” Friesen made the comments regarding his former team Cloud9 in an interview with Mohan “Launders” Govindasamy. It segued from a discussion of calling – being the person who co-ordinates the team strategy and makes decisions – which is all about being authoritative in communications.

Friesen: “THE ESL comms were kind of funny in my opinion.” [he pauses then continues]”I don’t even care. We were all on Adderall. I don’t even give a fuck, like, it was pretty obvious if you listen to the comms.”

Launders: “Everyone does Adderall at ESEA LAN, right?”

Friesen: “Yeah”

Launders: “Throwing that out there for the fans. That’s how you get good.”

Friesen: “And you can hear it in the comms, right. That’s why it’s so funny to me, it was like shit, comms’ so hectic! Like, yeah. So that might clear up some of the questions of why it was like that.”

I’ve encountered rumours and questions about Adderall usage in the professional eSports scene since I started covering it. Simon Parkin actually wrote a longform piece about Adderall (and related drug) use in eSports for Eurogamer earlier this year but noted the difficulty in getting anyone to talk about it – certainly not as candidly as Friesen.

Parkin pointed out that “Many professional sporting bodies including the NCAA, the MLB and the NFL have banned its use in the past five years. Players caught using the drug for anything other than medicinal purposes face severe penalties.”

More specifically to this situation, in the same article ESL’s managing director, Michel Blicharz, 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 went on to add, “The stakes in eSports are, bar a couple of exceptions, not high enough to inspire people to experiment with drugs.”

With Friesen’s comments now being widely discussed ESL obviously doesn’t want the integrity of its contests called into question. As per their official statement:

“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 has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding the integrity of our competitions and providing a fair playground for professional players.”

The result of all this will be an anti-PED [performance enhancing drug] policy developed in conjunction with NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur) and in consultation with WADA (World Anti Doping Agency). There’s a line in there which I like for its intention but which I want to see how it translates into a workable reality:

“The goal of this program is 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.”

The official policy will take a while to develop and implement so in the meantime ESL events will have a stopgap solution. August’s ESL One Cologne event will have randomised PEDs skin tests.

“Our aim is to perform those tests at every event in the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL ESEA Pro League competitions as soon as the policy is established and the tournament rules are updated.”

As for Friesen and Cloud9, ESL won’t be taking action against the team. “We have no way of knowing whether Semphis, despite what he said, has actually taken Adderall or not,” ESL’s head of communications, Anna Rozwandowicz said in an email to Vice. “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.”

50 Comments

  1. Xzi says:

    Won’t the easy solution be to claim you have ADHD? I mean, we give this shit to children just because their parents can’t deal with high energy levels. Can’t be that hard to get a doctor to write you a prescription as an adult.

    • Alecthar says:

      True, but the dosages of medication for maintenance of ADHD are generally lower than what you would likely find for someone doping for competitive advantage. Usually you take a relatively low daily dose, with higher dosages used like an asthmatic person would use an emergency inhaler.

      • Underwhelmed says:

        Yes and no. Even at therapeutic doses, the drug will still confer an edge, and any edge can be a significant boost at this level of competitive play.

        You can probably guess at what the ADHD diagnosis rates are going to be among pro-gamers now.

    • IviaRelle says:

      You’d be surprised how difficult it is to get an ADHD diagnosis as an adult. You have to jump through dozens of hoops because seeking an informed, adult diagnosis is seen as drug-seeking behaviour, especially because of PED issues as outlined in the article.

      • MirzaGhalib says:

        It’s funny you say that. I once had a doctor who tried to prescribe it to every one of his patients. Well, thode I knew, at least. The thing most people don’t realize about adderall is that it’s a mixture of amphetamines. If you don’t have ADHD then it affects you similarly to cocaine or methamphetamine. The doctor who tried to prescribe it every visit was tweaked so far out of his mind that he would tell me that he felt godlike since he started taking it.

      • Baines says:

        It apparently isn’t hard if you are a Major League Baseball player.

        The MLB tests for Adderall, but gives exemptions to players who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Unsurprisingly, the percentage of MLB players “diagnosed” with ADHD is more than twice that of the general US population.

        Adderall, like Ritalin previously, is a pretty popular drug to abuse in the US. It improves focus and memory, and as importantly gives people the *feeling* that it has improved their focus and memory. For the last decade or so, usage numbers have been doubling every few years. Faking ADHD in order to get prescriptions is apparently common. Studies report the number of college students who admit to illegal use of Adderall or similar stimulants (with Adderall being the most common) range from 15-25%.

        • aleander says:

          If you’re major league anything it’s apparently easy to get random blood transfusions. Meanwhile (not in US) I’m still knee deep in a process that will likely end up with Adderall or similar.

        • Unruly says:

          This is no different than what’s happened before in the US, in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Amphetamine use was a near-constant until the law was changed in the 70’s. Anyone who was anyone was using their “bennies” and “mother’s little helpers” to lose weight, stay focused, stay awake, keep active, etc.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      That kind of issue is prevalent in the US, I’m not sure it applies outside it.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      “I mean, we give this shit to children just because their parents can’t deal with high energy levels.”

      Or because they have genuine, debilitating attention problems. I started on Ritalin at age seven. I still take it now at 36. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree and a decent career. Without the Ritalin, I doubt I would have finished high school.

      ADD meds are overprescribed in some cases, but I get really tired of people implying that ADD overall is a sham.

      • LordBilisknir says:

        Agreed. I’ve been on it since age 11, so for 20 years this year.

        Get a lot of people saying ADHD is nothing but being lazy or just over-active. The over diagnosis and subsequent medication of marginal cases in the US and UK doesn’t help dispel that view.

  2. cptgone says:

    Sports are neither fair or healthy. Get over it.

    • Xzi says:

      Well, they are healthy, but usually only at the amateur levels where people don’t have so much pressure on them that they feel the need to take drugs. Just good ol’ diet and exercise, maybe the occasional bit of whey protein.

      • Reefpirate says:

        I would hesitate to call a lot of sports ‘healthy’ even without drug use. Knee injuries, back injuries, head and neck injuries, wear-and-tear on the joints, etc. are all risk factors.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Oh look, pompous horseshit in the first fifteen minutes or my day.

      Thanks for that.

      • gunny1993 says:

        Well it is well documented that over exercise, especially that associated with competitive sport can have serious short and long term effects link to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Not to mention the actual physical strain that kind of exertion over and over again puts on your body like boxers who are massively at risk of brain trauma, and general athletes with RSI

    • Synesthesia says:

      well, that was the easiest block in a while.

    • Eightball says:

      >implying computer games are sports

  3. suibhne says:

    This is a laughably ridiculous claim: “The stakes in eSports are, bar a couple of exceptions, not high enough to inspire people to experiment with drugs.”

    It’s ridiculous for two reasons: 1) a few hundred bucks is sufficient cause for people to use Adderall in a competitive context, and 2) this isn’t an issue of people “experimenting” with drugs, but rather using drugs they already know and use in other contexts.

    I was a competitive gamer ten years ago, playing games where stakes were relatively low, and top teams had Adderall users even then. I directly interacted with Adderall users. It’s absurd to suggest that this didn’t extend to the highest echelons of international competition, where people are literally earning their livelihoods via competitive gaming.

    It’s also ridiculous because the clinical literature and popular press are both full of research and documentation about rampant Adderall abuse among high school and college students. Even 10 years ago, it was pretty simple to buy Adderall; now the drug is ubiquitous on US college campuses. If you don’t personally use the drug as a “study aid”, you at least know multiple people who do. And guess who the primary esports participants are? Yep, the exact same demographics. Nobody is “experimenting” with Adderall in competitive gaming, simply because most of the Adderall users have probably been using the drug for years.

    It amazes me that the international esports scene has been given a pass on this issue for so long.

  4. rochrist says:

    Isn’t pretty much everybody under 30 on Adderall these days?

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Of course most people under 30 aren’t on adderall. Most people under 30 don’t even smoke pot, which is always more widespread.

      Besides, it doesn’t matter. If they want e-sports to be taken seriously, you have to drop the tweakers. Doesn’t matter what “young people” think is normal.

      It’s about what sponsors think.

  5. lglethal says:

    Wow I have to say there must be a huge discrepancy in the way things are treated in the US compared to Aus/EU. I’ve never known anyone at the universities I attended who used Adderall or similar drugs to help study or focus. And I dont know anyone who has had it prescribed to them. Hell, my sister’s son has been diagnosed with an attention disorder, but the doctors refuse to just prescribe him drugs. At least until every other option on the table has been explored.

    Obviously you yanks do things differently… :/

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      heretic says:

      Aye, surprised here too! Never heard of this before even at uni (which isn’t that long ago!)

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      particlese says:

      I’d guess it depends on the doctor/practice and the region to some extent, but yeah… When I was growing up, Ritalin was a big push for normally-“hyperactive” kids, but parents did and still do have regulatory powers. [I cannot continue without getting ranty, so *snip*!]

      I’m pretty sure one could casually buy caffeine pills off the shelf when I was in college, but Adderall was definitely not a thing where I was in the US a decade ago. Either that or I was spending way too much time not going to frat parties to notice…

      • suibhne says:

        “Either that or I was spending way too much time not going to frat parties to notice…”

        To be clear, in the US, Adderall abuse seems to be much more common among students who don’t go to frat parties than among those who do.

        For perspective on the issue in the US, try Googling something like “new york times adderall”. The list of 2015 hits alone is longer than my arm. (Well, depending on the screen resolution, heh.)

      • Fiatil says:

        In my fairly recent experience (graduated from a big state school 2 years ago), it’s pretty ubiquitous across social groups. Those in frats or sororities seemed to be a bit more prevalent in using it, but that was as much due to their access to it (large closely knit social group = someone you know is pretty damn likely to have access to it, just like a test bank or anything else to make the test easier) as it was anything else.

        It was remarkably socially acceptable. I think we may finally be turning a corner, but most people just don’t look at a pill from a doctor(even if they weren’t prescribed it) as a drug in the same sense they do meth or heroin or anything else. It’s pure mental gymnastics of course, because now we have a national heroin and speed epidemic in the form of oxycontin and Adderall.

    • derbefrier says:

      ehh i dont know if its that widespread. Granted I have been out of school for over a decade and that may have changed but in my day we all just drank and smoked pot.

  6. kud13 says:

    This really does strike me as a US-specific thing.

    I’m 27, I finished 2 Uni degrees in Canada (BScH in psychology +. J.D., aka law school). I work in personal injury litigation. I’ve heard more than I’d ever want about medicinal pot and people getting hooked on painkillers, or sleazy doctors basically dealing narcotics as painkillers.

    I have never heard of adderall until I read this article.

    • kud13 says:

      This was supposed to be a response to rochrist. I miss the edit function.

  7. eggy toast says:

    Here’s the necessary background:

    Adderall is a brand name for a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

    The drug is “salts of amphetamine” which is exactly what it sounds like.

  8. Radiant says:

    Also for students adderall is AMAZING for revision.
    In the US it’s got to the point where it’s messing with higher education statistics with people on adhd drugs and those without.

    Get it. Be good at games and school.
    No adverse affects.
    What’s not to like?

    Btw anyone got any Es?

    • brotherthree says:

      >No adverse affects

      Ha.
      Remember how the Romans used lead pipes, and up until a few years ago Margarine was way better than butter?

      We understand our brains just about as well as the Romans understood metal.

    • hamilcarp says:

      Adderall has plenty of adverse effects. The stuff is basically just watered down speed. It’s highly addictive, bad for your heart, liver, colon, and probably the brain.

  9. InternetBatman says:

    I honestly think society is somewhat arbitrary about which drugs are acceptable to take, etc. If it’s useful or not too harmful, let people take it. Caffeine & alcohol are legal, and society is probably better off for it (caffeine more than alcohol).

    • Pesticide says:

      on what do u proof or facts do u base that conclusion that we are better off with alcohol and cafeine? The only reason they are legal is cause they earn money for the countries at the expense of its citizens, greed from corporations who bribed politicians and scientists studies to legalize nicotine. At this rate weed, cocaine, whatever they can think off, it will all be legal soon as long as they can make a buck of u , at your healths expense, your friends health and your families health.

      • joa says:

        Shit, you want prohibition, you think that was fun? I think we should trust people with the responsibility if they want to have coffee, alcohol or weed, whatever.

        • Premium User Badge

          Phasma Felis says:

          Trying to take alcohol away from people pissed them off so much that the results were worse than legal alcohol had been, so we did the pragmatic thing and legalized it again. Prohibition doesn’t work, as you say.

          It does not follow from that that alcohol is a good thing, or that we wouldn’t be better off if we all decided to stop drinking.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I doesn’t follow that alcohol is absolutely, unequivocally negative either (blah blah research red wine moderate amounts beneficial blah blah), so I’m not sure where anyone is going with this thread unless we’re shooting for the future of Demolition Man.

  10. Potocobe says:

    Let’s remember, as with most things, moderation is key. Too much or too little of basically everything will kill you.

    There are some drugs, such as adderall, that really help you think better. And that is besides the point. With any argument you must begin with first principles. So, firstly, do you think you have any business telling me what I may or may not do with my body? I believe the answer is no. If you believe differently we are going to have a problem. As with most people in the US I don’t give two fucks what anyone says I can or cannot do with my self. I don’t always make smart decisions but I never intentionally hurt anyone and always make it right if I accidentally do. What more do you want from me?

    As for sporting events in general I think it is fair to say that everyone should be competing at the same level with or without artificial enhancement. Either none of you do it or you all do it. I just want to see a fair fight/contest/game. Adderall absolutely gives you an edge over someone who isn’t on it. If everyone is already doing it then it’s fair in my book.

    Why not have two leagues? One that is vanilla where everybody is just what their momma made and one where every player is a racecar that gets tuned to perfection any way they can. Soon enough you’re going to have a hard time finding a human that isn’t always enhanced in some way by chemistry and technology. Where do you draw the line? I say why do want to draw one in the first place??

    I think another good question is “Is counter strike more fun to watch when everyone is speeding on pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine?” Why not do some pro matches where everyone is tripping on acid for funsies? Let’s just not do these kinds of things while pretending we aren’t. I think that is called cheating. Being dishonest isn’t cool and ruins things for others who prefer the truth and cheaters are fucking assholes.

    • TomA says:

      I’m sorry that’s almost the ramblings of a mad man, and that’s ignoring the extremely paranoid opening paragraph. I really hope you’re not being serious.

      • behrooz says:

        Potocobe is entirely serious, as they should be. Do you truly think it’s your place to tell other people what they should do with their own bodies? Who should be able to make those choices, and why?

        Think very, very carefully about your answer.

        • CaidKean says:

          Surely it depends on context. I am fairly sure it is my concern if you place a bomb inside your body and walk around with it, to take an extreme example.

          I am also fairly sure that it is my business/concern if I see someone take drugs to the point of being impaired by them and then see said person getting into a vehicle as the driver.

          So, it’s all about context. People aren’t islands as much as some American libertarians would have you believe. People don’t exist completely independently, at least not if you live within a society. Your actions affect others and if it might affect others in a detrimental way, like say drugs that have a tendency to induce violence then yes, it is other people’s and the government’s business.

          Mind you, I’m not arguing for prohibition. I’m just saying why I think it’s perfectly reasonable for it to be illegal to be under the influence of drugs in a public space for example.

      • Potocobe says:

        I will accept the madness tag. I have my moments (although I keep them to myself). I will also admit that there is some jest in that text chunk. Serious about the “you don’t have any business telling me what I can do with my body” part. Partially serious about the ‘on-drugs’ league for esports part.

        As to the extremely paranoid opening paragraph that was two sentences long. My response is-> ??
        I fail to see the paranoia. Let alone extreme version of it. That statement is the truest thing I know. The examples of its truth are endless.

        If you were for some reason referring to the second paragraph as the opening one, then I will accept paranoia but not extreme paranoia. As a sometimes drug user my country has declared open war on me. It is really stupid to not be paranoid during times of war. (We are always at war btw so there is that) Too much or too little paranoia during a war will get you killed. =)

        When it comes to aderall… Have you asked yourself why everyone is using this one drug when there are many, many drugs to choose from? Air Force pilots take it to stay awake and alert. Some kids take it to study, some to get high.

        That drug made my “he never talks to anyone” friend in high school open up and be more sociable after one dose and he stayed that way long after the drug wore off. He learned something from that one experience that changed him forever and made him a more engaging person. He was not prescribed this drug and I will add he had done meth and coke and all kinds of hallucinogens long before that day and none of those drugs had that effect on him. In all seriousness, they should put this stuff in our water supply. Haven’t tried it? Then what can you truly say about what it is or whether anyone else should use it?

        • CaidKean says:

          I have a question to you: Do you want it to be legal to be under the influence of drugs anywhere at any time?

          Or, are you just saying that people should be able to do what they want to themselves in the privacy of their own home?

          • Potocobe says:

            That is such general question considering the way people talk about drugs today that I’m not sure it is fair for me to simply answer it with a yes or no. People are on drugs all the time, everywhere people go. Some of them legal, some not. It certainly should not be a crime to be under the influence of anything ever. Certainly not in your own damn home! If you personally can’t handle a particular drug other people will find out soon enough or you will realize it on your own and hopefully talk about it and work out what your problem is. Drug problems are health problems not criminal justice problems.

            This country is so overwhelmed with individuals with mental health disorders it’s hard to tell who is crazy and who is on drugs. I’d bet money that many people with drug problems have mental health problems as well and it isn’t the drugs fault they don’t handle it well. The impossible task of separating drug reactions from mental health disorders and accidental drug interactions (like when one doctor prescribes a drug that messes with a drug another doctor prescribed) makes it impossible to talk about drug use and it’s potential harms the way we normally do.

            Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, THC, amphetamines (both lab grade and bathtub grade) etc, are being used all the time by people from all walks of life all across the country. Even by cops and people in authority. I used to know an HPD officer that gave me weed he took from teenagers when I came to his house. He would then go upstairs and do coke so he wouldn’t inhale enough pot smoke that it would show in a drug screen. He wanted to smoke weed but couldn’t and did coke instead. Isn’t that crazy? You want a police man high on pot and paranoid or one coked out and paranoid? The rule that he not use illegal substances was just flat out ignored.

            Rules that no one will follow aren’t real rules as far as I see it. No different than a locked gate I can just jump or a stop sign I run when there is no one there to see me do it. Those are suggestions or notices. Did I break a rule by running the stop sign? Isn’t it only there to regulate the intersection for traffic? What about when there isn’t any traffic?

            Give everyone as much freedom as can be had. When someone can’t handle it we should deal with that someone as an idiviual but don’t turn around and go, “well john ruined drinking for everybody because he crashed his car. So no more for the rest of us!” And you can’t round off every corner in the world in an attempt to make it safer for everybody. Isn’t it easier to teach people to pay attention?

        • CaidKean says:

          By the way, I think in any way comparing USAF’s usage of amphetamines to that of the layman without prescription is pretty silly if that is what you are trying to do.

          USAF usage is extremely regulated. Every time the pilot is assigned go pills they have to be medically cleared first, approval also has to come from the higher HQ. After the sortie is flown, the pilot has an extended mandatory downtime after which he has to go through a new medical check just to fly again.

          So, comparing letting everyone take amphetamine-based substances whenever they feel like it is quite different from the way it is used within the USAF.

          • Potocobe says:

            I was merely alluding to the fact that they do use it, mostly cause it’s useful. And if a government that is at war with it’s people over drug selling and drug use then takes and re-purposes a drug so it’s pilots can use it because it is beneficial after all (but they mustn’t enjoy it!) then why shouldn’t the rest of us be allowed to use it because it is useful whether it is regulated or not? I am not against regulations per se but I truly believe that the less rules we can have to live our lives by makes our lives easier to live. If there aren’t serious problems because of it’s use then what problems are we trying to regulate away? This drug started as a controlled substance and no one has any idea what people would do with it if they could do what they want with it. I would like data from an unregulated drugs market to go alongside the data from a regulated market and the current black market before I can say what I think should be the rules for using clean amphetamines.

          • Potocobe says:

            And who am I to say what you should do with it anyways? Clearly, I’m not afraid to share my opinion if you want me to but these decisions, as always, should be left to the individual responsible adult to decide.

  11. OmNomNom says:

    Back when i was in university i used to take Ecstacy on nights out. This often turned into a late night gaming session after the nightclubs closed. I was seriously unbeatable on that stuff.