ESL Announces List Of Banned Substances

Remember how ESL said they would be developing anti-performance-enhancing drug policies after a CS:GO player claimed his entire team were using Adderall at an eSports event? While I was enjoying the fug of jetlag ESL announced further details on that policy including which substances will be forbidden during competition.

ESL’s Head of Communications, Anna Rozwandowicz noted in a Reddit post that the main goal when introducing these policies is “to maintain the fair play spirit and the integrity of our competitions, and we’re confident that the anti-doping policy is an important improvement that will help us advance as a sport”.

For its list of forbidden substances, ESL will be sharing the list used by NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). It’s here [PDF] if you want to have a scan through.

(As an aside I’d say it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to navigate. If you take Adderall as an example you won’t find Adderall listed as a banned substance because that’s the brand name for the medication not the specific prohibited ingredient. Instead you’ll need to search for those ingredients individually. In this case one of those is amphetamine. Except you won’t find it under “amphetamine” you’ll find it under “amfetamine” because the latter is the International Nonproprietary Name which is a unique global standard way of referring to the substance.)

Rozwandowicz added: “We are going to refer to this list to establish what is forbidden to use at our events. This means that no player should take drugs/medication that contain ingredients from this list, as this may cause them turning in positive tests results.”

In terms of how testing will be carried out the initial plan was to use skin tests but consultation with anti-doping authorities has seen ESL switch to saliva testing as the preferred method. “Tests will be performed at our discretion at any time during tournament days, and will take place in a designated testing area. Naturally, player’s privacy comes first.”

The idea is to start with randomised testing at ESL One Cologne. There is the potential to switch to larger numbers of tests or possibly testing all players at future events but the organisation says it will notify players it it make changes to the testing methods and policy.

Players taking prescribed medication containing banned substances must notify ESL and provide proof of the need for their medicine (doctor’s note being the usual proof) before the scheduled start of the first match. The Q&A explicitly states that use of marijuana is forbidden during competition. On the latter point, WADA raised the threshold for a positive marijuana result in an effort to minimise false positives from out-of-competition use.

“The punishments range from getting prize money/tournament points deducted, to disqualification and up to a two year ban from ESL events. We will look at each case separately and once again ensure player’s full privacy.”

I’ll be interested to see what the latter actually means in terms of the conflict between full player privacy and explaining disqualifications and bans.


  1. Xzi says:

    Damn, I can’t use steroids to up my LoL game any more? What has this world come to?

    Also had to CTRL+F marijuana just to make sure stupid people still think it’s somehow a performance-enhancing drug.

    • Risingson says:

      Or MDMA while gaming. That could be interesting.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Or acid…imagine if each team had to take a random drug prior to competing. Now that would be an interesting Twitch stream.

        • Ashrand says:

          Twitch thinks it’s playing Pokemon (really it’s Chen).
          I love it!

        • Xzi says:

          That would be the only thing that could get me to watch other people play MOBAs again.

        • Sin Vega says:

          It would probably be pretty boring after the initial amusement had ended, really. Fascinating for the players, though.

          • Xzi says:

            I don’t know, people on shrooms are pretty amusing to watch. And listen to.

      • Nat be at says:

        Recommend Trackmania

    • JonClaw says:

      Look up “CANNABINOIDS”…

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Maybe it’d help settle people’s nerves?

    • Fiatil says:

      Well hey, they’re being generous and only banning marijuana “in competition”. Except that it’s fat soluble, and will stay in your system for over a month depending on use and body weight. Have fun with that one guys.

      • Xzi says:

        Oh god, what have I done?! I’ll be caught with marijuana in my system. In Colorado of all places! Surely they’ll lock me up and throw away the key. Surely.

    • Zenigrath says:

      Marijuana can actually be used to better your performance. It gives you a solid good feeling and you can focus a lot intensively on the thing that you are doing, even when you are in a tough situation. Unless of course, you can’t control yourself nor the substance.

      I just don’t think that amfetamine or any other “hard drug” has a place in any E-Sports event. Personally I think that these bans wont affect the usage of Adderall that much. It’s based on amfetamine and should be water-soluble substance. So, the same trick that is used to fool the cops can be used to fool the ESL. Just drink lots of water and you should be safe. Does not leave traces in urine. I don’t think that they’ll be testing blood.

      “Also had to CTRL+F marijuana just to make sure stupid people still think it’s somehow a performance-enhancing drug.”

      Just had to reply to this. Didn’t even have to CTRL+F to find stupid people who talk about things they have no experience whatsoever :)

      • Xzi says:

        It could potentially work well as a pain reliever for use during any physical sport, but then so could aspirin/ibuprofen. At best, however, being high makes you feel like your performance is enhanced when it is usually declined or about the same as it would have been otherwise.

        I have plenty of experience with which to back that. xD

  2. mattevansc3 says:

    So am I reading this right? Marijuana is banded in with the performance enhancing drugs and Mountain Dew is allowed to sponsor such events?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yep. They have a whole category for “narcotics”, just in case you weren’t sure about their intention in enforcing stupid drug laws, rather than simply fulfilling the purpose of banning performance-enhancing drugs. Great job, moral guardians.

      • jrodman says:

        hey we have a lot of money invested in keeping that stuff illegal. Money is important.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Well mountain Dew is both legal and contains less caffeine than most cups of coffee per ml, so I don’t think the comparison is apt.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Marijuana is legal in a lot of places too, and not just under certain conditions. Moreover, I don’t know about you, but given the choice I’d prefer my opponents were stoned off their tits.

    • Blaaaaaaag says:

      And morphine too! If ever there was a performance-crippling drug, that’d be it. Bizarre.

      I would want to compete baked on mary jay if I was a pro gamer, despite the handicap. Glad I’m not.

  3. Anthile says:

    Well, at least we won’t see any blood doping in esports. Yet.

    • Xzi says:

      Nah, you’ll just see all the guys who were previously using adderall illegitimately come back with a prescription from any random Dr. Feelgood who is getting kickbacks from the pharmaceutical company who produces it.

      • Underwhelmed says:

        Yeah this is nonsense here. A doctor isn’t going to “get a kickback” for writing a “please let this person eat a bunch of ADHD medication”.

        In addition, so called “kickbacks” are illegal in most places at this point. (not to mention it is near impossible for drug manufacturers to track how much of a given med is given out by a given physician beyond free trial packs) I know it is fun to pretend you know more about medicine than actual practitioners but I think your internet education is not all that accurate.

        • Xzi says:

          Yes, doctors do get incentives to prescribe certain medications. And yes, the healthcare system in this country is that broken and corrupt. Money being the root of it all, as usual.

      • rabbit says:

        judges slapping people with unreasonable prison sentences for profit is also ‘nonsense’ i assume

  4. Wisq says:

    My eyes initially parsed that header image as some sort of metal bridge receding into the distance, not entirely unlike the Bifrost bridge from the Thor movie.

    Then I realised it was just a ribbed trophy base. Much less exciting.

    … This is why I shouldn’t do drugs.

  5. namad says:

    wouldn’t the kind of person who ends up playing the same video game 80hours a week for years… be the kind of person a doctor would gladly provide adhd medication to?

    what’s the point?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      If they could focus on the same thing for that long, why’d they need adhd meds?

      • MaXimillion says:

        Because ADHD isn’t a complete inability to focus, it’s inability to focus on things you don’t find very exciting.

        • Fitzmogwai says:

          Look up hyperfocus. One of the (questionable) benefits of ADD.

          • brucethemoose says:

            Speaking from personal experience, It’s more of a tradeoff than a benefit.

            I can focus on something interesting/stimulating very well, but then it’s incredibly difficult to switch gears. On top of that, you tend to get “tunnel vision”… People can talk to you or call your name for a minute straight without you noticing, it’s like your mind shuts off everything outside your current obsession.

  6. 2lab says:

    the S0 section bans nicotine and maybe caffeine, will smokers be banned from e-sports?

    Taurine has no sane therapeutic use, so no red bull, but it won’t be enforced.

    These are some messed up rules but then again drug policy is nearly always messed up.

  7. Panther_Modern says:

    That unprescribed amphetamines are now banned seems moot as I reckon that a the people who would choose to make a life out of video games are likely ADHD in the first place

    • 2lab says:

      ADHD means you can’t focus on anything, being a pro. gamer takes insane focus.

    • Baines says:

      I wish they’d taken a survey of who had ADHD prescriptions before any mention was made of a potential drug policy, and then compared it to how many people would submit prescriptions after the policy was put into place. I’m curious just how many people suddenly realized that they had ADHD.

      I also wonder if ESL will release at least the percentage of players who have prescriptions. I’m guessing that they will not, as the number will likely be rather higher than average. (And even that percentage won’t be everyone using Adderall, as some will continue using without even bother with the “on-the-record” safety of a prescription.)

  8. aircool says:

    What? You can’t smoke a cigar or pipe?

    • 2lab says:

      Now we know why Sir, you are being hunted never became an e-sport.

  9. asclark says:

    Near top of page 9 on the WADA list: nicotine is specifically not banned…

  10. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    link to

  11. FuktLogik says:

    Are they under the impression that pot is a performance enhancer?

    • Underwhelmed says:

      Depends on how you define “enhanced”. Lots of performances are much more entertaining to watch with it.

    • Lanfranc says:

      Makes you relax, calms the nerves, maybe lets you focus better? I can see how that would be ‘performance-enhancing’ for an esports-player.

      • P.Funk says:

        By that rationale herbal tea could be banned.

        The reason pot is banned is because the US calls it a schedule 1 drug when its not. Pot’s characteristics are not in keeping with how its categorized in most western nations thanks to the drug war.

        So to this day we have propaganda and skewed policy affecting all manner of things. Part of the downside to using this kind of recognized standard for anti-doping guidelines.

  12. aepervius says:

    The following , with the potential to enhance sport performance, are prohibited:
    1. The transfer of polymers of nucleic acids or nucleic acid analogues ;
    2. The use of normal or genetically modified cells .”

    What. The. Heck. How is that even a thing when gene therapy is not even in its infancy.
    And come on testing that in a DOTA competition ? You are kidding me ?

    It sounds like they copy-pasted the whole WADA anti doping document without rhyme or sense.

    • Jackablade says:

      I think it’s a technical way to say “don’t drink the blood of your enemies.”

      • pepperfez says:

        It’s like these people don’t even understand competition.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yes, in the Reddit thread they admit that’s exactly what they’ve done. Rather than attempting to create a sensible policy that would apply to competitive videogames, they’ve simply borrowed the wholly inappropriate “international standard”.

  13. podkayne says:

    A lot of these drug classes are anti-cancer/anti-tumor drugs. No idea they had any kind of competitive application. And clomiphene is used as part of fertility schedules.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Strange, but it’s probably not a huge deal since most users will have prescriptions for those drugs anyway.

    • Fiatil says:

      You would be surprised at the variety of drugs people have discovered to mask steroid use. My assumption is that those are banned for that reason. It’s silly for video games, but the ESL was silly and decided to use a list of banned substances for athletes as their entire system.

  14. racccoon says:

    They forgot Sage, Wormwood, Bannana skins & Air!!!
    This is is all bullshit as no added substances enhance play in any sport. The world is just now ..fucking mental. ruled by mental people. lol

  15. Neurotic says:

    Big shout-out to our smelly, stinky neighbours, Katowice! Home of the nightmare road system even its residents can’t understand.

  16. P.Funk says:

    You know that we’ll have finally made progress on the drug war when pot stops being considered performance enhancing.

    Of course that is a perfect example though of the kind of double think inherent to a “war” thats seen the populace heavily propagandized.

    Remember kids, if you smoke pot you’ll never make anything of your life, and if you do we’ll take your gold medal away because you cheated.

  17. AbyssUK says:

    I don’t understand all the hate, to truly become a “real” sport surely we should all be celebrating this.. whatever the drug be it an enhancement or not. Ensuring a level playing field is the number one requirement for a decent sport right… using the “international standard” covers all the main bases.

    If you want to smoke pot, that’s fine just don’t do it near game time (from the allowed levels would need to give up for 1 week before at a rough guess), if you have a problem with that self control then you probably shouldn’t be a sports person.

    If you really do have ADHD and a doctor gives you meds, you don’t really want to be messing with your illness by going off routine (keeping your meds routine is important) to try and gain an advantage in a sporting event.

    Also, if people are prescribed drugs the allowed levels will increase dependant on the prescribed drug level, the sporting body can detect levels of most drugs pretty well with additional testing so anybody taking more than the prescribed amount can also be found out.

    It is of course possible to trick these systems, but requires real malice, eventually you will be caught out and then hopefully shamed as the cheat you are.