Valve pull support from major Philippines Dota 2 tournament, citing privacy concerns

Valve have stopped supporting an upcoming Dota 2 tournament over concerns that the Philippines government would make “unreasonable infringements on the privacy” of players entering the country. Valve don’t elaborate on why they’re dropping the Galaxy Battles 2018 tourney, which was due to run January 15-21, but it seems mandatory government drug testing for esports players is likely to blame. The tournament might continue in some form, but it would be without Valve, not as an official ‘Major’ on the Dota Pro Circuit, and not with all the teams.

Valve said in last night’s announcement:

“Based on information we’ve recently confirmed regarding new government regulations for esports players entering the Philippines, we have decided to rescind the tournament’s Major designation, including the Pro Circuit qualifying points, for the Galaxy Battles 2018 tournament. This is based on what we feel are unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players, as a condition to enter the country.”

Valve don’t explain which government regulations they object to, but it seems likely it’s drug testing.

In 2017, the Philippines started recognising esports players as athletes and granting them licenses, bringing them under the authority of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB). The GAB mandates drug testing for licensed players, looking for use of marijuana and methamphetamine. Both of these, you’ll note, are legal in some places and in some forms.

Paolo Bago, an esports journalist from the Philippines, has shared a statement from the GAB which shows they think Valve are objecting to the drug testing. GAB say they were willing to slightly loosen their rules for Galaxy Battles 2018, letting the organisers submit results from drug tests taken in their own country. However, this would still seem a privacy concern, for requiring testing in the first place and then for essentially ‘outing’ players if they proved unable to play in the tournament.

While I haven’t heard much about methamphetamine in esports, the ADHD drug Adderall–a different form of amphetamine–has been reported as commonly abused by players seeking an advantage. But if there’s anything I learned about playing Dota with stoned randos over the years, it’s that marijuana largely makes people late to team fights and prone to singing Basshunter.

This isn’t just some whim of the GAB. The Philippines has aggressive anti-drug laws, including the death penalty for people convicted of trafficking. The country’s bloody ongoing ‘war on drugs’ saw police and vigilantes kill an estimated 12,000 people, including children, during 14 months of it. Amnesty International have reported on extrajudicial executions by police against unarmed people or people who surrendered, as well as theft, beatings, and more. The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has encouraged vigilantism and said in 2016, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

The GAB isn’t the only body testing for drugs in esports, mind. The ESL, a major multi-game esports organisation, introduced random drug tests in 2015.

Valve say their decision to rescind the Major status “isn’t a reflection on how we feel about fans in the Philippines, and we are sorry for those that were planning on attending the event.”

Russian Dota 2 team have already pulled out of the tournament and rumour says several others will follow. If Galaxy Battles does go ahead, it won’t be the same.

Valve say they’re talking with tournament organisers to try to find a way to run another Major with the same teams. This would give them another chance to fight over the Pro Tour Points that help determine who gets to play in The International, Valve’s big annual multi-million-dollar tournament.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    ESports are a real sport.

    Unless you try to hold them to the same standards as real sports.

    TBF if you removed every pro player not dosing regularly with adderall, beta blockers and weed you’d have nobody left.

    • Oasx says:

      I have not seen evidence of widespread drug use in eSports, all the news stories have pretty much been rumours and hearsay.

      And even if some of the players are doing drugs, legal or not, do they deserve to get murdered for that? Because there is a very real risk that this could happen in the Philippines.

    • stringerdell says:

      The problem is with the context, not the drug testing itself. Duterte openly encourages the murder of drug users.

    • Viral Frog says:

      If this was happening almost anywhere else, Valve probably wouldn’t care if they were drug tested or not. Given that people are being openly murdered on even a slight suspicions of drug use and/or distribution in the Philippines, it’s reasonable for Valve to drop support for the tournament. No doubt they don’t want to find out if all the players will make it home alive or not.

      • ajhai says:

        LOL .. you’re very wrong about the Philippine war on illegal drugs.

    • lasikbear says:

      If anything esports having doping scandals is them becoming more of a real sport. Just need to toss a few asterisks on some International/EVO/LCS/whatever winners to bring it home.

    • mike69 says:

      I say the whole thing lost a lot of credibility when it stopped being referred to as competitive gaming.

      It’s not sport, any more than chess is sport, it’s gaming and that’s fine.

      Then you see the shout casters and it’s all just too much.

    • Smarag says:

      The point is they kill drug users without trial their. Valve doesn’t want to support that or the bad publicity from getting a Player killed, because they didn’t know better and went out to score some weed. Also it’s trivial in the US and many other countries to get a doctor’s note that says you have to use adderall.

  2. Imperialist says:

    This may sound cynical, but i have a feeling that if there is a drug problem in the eSports scene, it is downplayed or outright covered up, due to the fact that eSports themselves are in their infancy, and the last thing they need is to further discredit their association when it is just gaining momentum. They already face an uphill battle against actual sports, which are rife with their own issues.

    I personally find the idea of video game players as “athletes” preposterous, and if anything it is a further sign of the degradation of the industry.

    Edit: damn, that was meant to be a reply to Oasx’s above comment.

    • KDR_11k says:

      The “athlete” tag is needed for some visas. I doubt that category was meant to require actual athleticism, just enable those who show up to tournaments to come into the country for a short while.

    • Neutrino says:

      Seems unlikely to me for one important fact.

      There are drugs out there that will make you a better athlete, and naturally they end up being used.

      There aren’t any drugs out there that can make you a better Dota player. If you are crap, you will still be crap even if you have taken Adderall or whatever else is supposed to keep you alert.

      • WhattaNerd says:

        If you’re a good dota player, it will make you better.

        -A good dota player

  3. Someoldguy says:

    The Philippines may not be a desirable place to fail a drugs test, but if eSports are trying to become as respected as other sports then rules, regulations and routine testing for performance enhancing drugs is going to have to come in at some point.

    • automatic says:

      I think it may not be desirable to have drug users on eSports but if the Philippines are ever to become as respected as other countries then human rights is going to have to come in at some point.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      I know some caffeine junkies that can outperform my methylphenidate game. Classifying stimulants as “performance enhancing” isn’t as clear cut a case as steroid use is for weight lifting, for instance. Stimulant effects are all over the place and don’t work in straightforward ways. Methamphetamine probably would be that great a choice either. The Germans used it successfully to blitz quickly into enemy territory for several days without sleeping, but I don’t know of any tournament that would force gamers to play nonstop for 72 hours. There should be one, it’d be fun.

      And in response to above comments, be specific of what you’re talking about when you use the blanket term “drugs,” otherwise you come off sounding like those people on TV, news anchors or whatever who don’t know shit.

  4. Wauffles says:

    Esports’ dirty little secret strikes again…..

  5. Doug Exeter says:

    I just wrote a 4 paragraph diatribe about how PED testing is wildly ineffective and a farce of a industry but the I remembered E-Sports is mostly just pot and Adderall and I would be ranting at that point.

  6. podbaydoors says:

    American corporation inconvenienced by sovereign state’s legal system throws toys out of cot. Quelle surprise.

    • RevoRanger says:

      As a Filipino who lives in the Philippines where our legal system is horribly inefficient, corrupt and prone to murder, I think it’s perfectly okay for Valve to not do business with our government here.

      • WhattaNerd says:

        Kudos to you, good sir. I hope things improve all around for you guys there.

    • Horg says:

      What’s going on in the Philippines is neither sovereign nor legal. It’s dictatorial and selectively refusing to enforce laws whenever drugs are linked to the victim, regardless of the available evidence. Valve have made the right choice here.

      • podbaydoors says:

        If Valve doesn’t want to do business in the country because Duterte is a mass-murdering dictator, good on them. But I notice their stated objection is to the application of standard visa requirements to their “e-sports” “professionals”, which isn’t quite taking a moral stand.

        • Horg says:

          Considering the only realistic objection Valve could have is to the drug testing requirements, and they are only an issue becasue of Duterte enabling vigilante violence and extra judicial killings, we can conclude that Valves response is directly related to Duterte’s policies. Just becasue Valve didn’t name him directly does not mean Valves response is not a moral stand, to protect the safety of their players, against the threat of Draconian punishment.

          • podbaydoors says:

            The drug tests happen during the application process, which needs to be completed before the player gets on the plane. Unless Duterte has radically stepped up his murder capabilities, Jimmy Dota isn’t about to get droned on his way home from the embassy.

        • WhattaNerd says:

          Who knows, maybe they dont want said dictator (duterte? todays the first time ive heard his name, i plan on doing research in the near future) deciding…computers are illegal, cause the video game company talked shit, and murdering people who own PC’s. An outrageous idea, but here in America we think it’s outrageous for someone to be executed summarily for a crime….yet its commonplace in the phillipines, it would seem.

  7. vashgibz says:

    Gamers are drug users now? and Valve is tolerating it?
    What’s to be afraid when you are clean? LOL

    • KDR_11k says:

      Getting murdered and then having some crack sprinkled on your corpse as justification?

  8. fearandloathing says:

    Glad. Such regimes should never be normalized through international events.

  9. MoNARcH says:

    just here to correct a little something.
    You don’t get killed for doing drugs, you get imprisoned.
    Though there are real actual death here, also in the next town, or those ones you see in T.V. the person killed (in our town at least) was a locally known drug pusher, possessing “dangerous drugs” and pushing people to do drugs, especially tempting young people (teens and people to their mid 20’s).
    we own a bar(sorta) and its unavoidable that you hear a lot things. from what I see, with the disappearance of pushers and drug dens, people got no drugs and place to do drugs on, and because of that, a lot of people goes to cafes instead and plays DOTA <–this true, not a joke.

    • lglethal says:

      Hi Monarch,

      You seem to be implying that because this person who died in your village was “known” as a drug pusher of “dangerous drugs” its ok that they were murdered. Sorry but No.

      If he was a “known” drug dealer, then the cops should have arrested him. And it should have been easy for them to gather the necessary evidence if he was known to be a dealer – a couple of undercover people buying some of these “dangerous drugs” of him is more then enough to convict. And you’re right, you have very strict laws which would have seen him imprisoned for a good 10 years or more (and imprisoned whilst awiting trial). So why wasnt he arrested? Why wasnt he arrested as soon as he was “known”? Either your police are incompetent, the people in your town refused to tell the police about this “known” drug dealer, or what?

      Under no circumstance can extrajudicial killings ever be accepted in a civilised country. Because as has been shown throughout history, any time police or politicians have that power, it gets abused and its innocent people who get caught in the crossfire.

      You say this guy was a known dealer, do you have proof of that? Why didnt you take that proof to the cops? And do you sleep better in your bed, knowing that if someone started saying that they “knew” you were a drug dealer in your bar that you’re more likely to end up with a bullet in the head then before a court of law where you can argue your innocence?

    • Stein Bars says:

      My very close freind was gunned down due to drug trafficking. He used to sell drugs but turned arround and became a close-in bodyguard of a local politician. One day he was gunned down. On his wake, I learned that he went back into selling stuff.

      I found out that those who were gunned down (arround my town) were Notorious or “repeat Offenders”. I have seen users jailed.

      one more account.. A father of my classmate killed a drug pusher. I found out that the pusher sell drugs to my then second-honor classmate. His father ran away was nowhere to be found to avoid arrest. I have seen lives and future destroyed, families wrecked on the influence of drugs.

      I am glad now that our streets here in Mindanao, Philippines is much , much safer.

      In addition, our family strongly believes that Martial Law is a good proclamation.

      Dont believe all what the TV News say. They say that Martial Law has led to massive “Human Rights violations” but in fact it’s the opposite. NO. Never a “human right” violated here. We are ENJOYING martial law, where the children of those thrash rich politicians can not do thier own way now. They cannot hurdle highway checkpoints now, and thier drugs can now be discovered in thier cars or motorcycles. Daddy cannot help you now Ha ha ha.

  10. MajorLag says:

    The whole situation with “drugs” being banned in sports of any kind is really strange. The line between chemicals you are allowed to consume to manipulate your body and chemicals you’re not seems really arbitrary.

    • grimdanfango says:

      That pretty much sums up all anti-drug legislation throughout the world for all of time.
      There are clearly a few which are outright dangerous and likely should always be legislated against and tightly controlled… but for pretty much everything else, legislation is invariably dictated as a response to general social panic, rather than any attempt at objective assessment of physiological or wider social damage caused. Hence the fact that alcohol consumption is actively encouraged throughout most of the world, while marijuana is usually legislated against. Alcohol is massively damaging throughout the world, but your grandad drinks it, his grandad drank it, and it’s seen as completely “traditional” rather than a scary outside force corrupting the children.

      It’s a perfect example of how laws are invariably not created for objective safety, but for the *appearance* of safety.

  11. ryuu_azriel says:

    sad news… i respect the decision of valve… but my only concern is, what about the people who already buy a ticket? what will happen? like me, I’ve already buy a ticket… any concern? thanks…

    • WhattaNerd says:

      There was a part about another tournament to make it up, maybe for that one they could gift any ticket purchaser with a lot of free stuff? If not just refund it in the first place, that is.

  12. Hatersgonnahate says:

    Easy to type in your thoughts and ideas about places and things you have nil knowledge about. The Philippines is a sovereign state that has laws, if you don’t want to abide by it, then you’re most welcome to leave its jurisdiction, but to belittle and stain its laws by your mundane ideas proves your bigotry. By the way, fix your sources. You need to cite them or face the consequences of criticism. Where did you get the idea of bypassing the laws of the Philippines? Youtube? Be mindful of spreading cancerous thoughts to people. If valve wants to pull out, they can surely do so. That’s their every right. Just don’t put the blame on the law that stands to protect the people of a sovereign state.

  13. MadfreakJH says:

    “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

    -Clearly, the writer and commentators of this thread don’t know shit about the Philippines and how drugs destroyed a generation after generation of youths. That is why Duterte won by a landslide in the first place because your so called DEMOCRACY including your rights to privacy was the best tool to have impunity over drug-related crimes committed.

    Let’s just be honest… VALVE pulled it off because many (if not most) of these egamers are using drug enhancements to keep them awake or alert. VALVE simply can’t afford to lose them. We are aware of your culture and we respect it. You can keep on doping and weeding on your country while enjoying your DOTA2 but you must also respect our sovereignty. We are aggressive over drugs because we suffered a lot from it and we don’t want any violators getting away just because of your so called PRIVACY. Put this in your mind, you are not welcome in the Philippines if you are an illegal drug-user. As simple as that. ;)