As the popularity and money associated with e-sports has skyrocketed, the world's largest gaming organization, the ESL, announced Thursday it would begin to explore a comprehensive drug testing program.
"We've known for some time that performance-enhancing drugs could be a challenge that we'd eventually need to face," James Lampkin, vice president of pro gaming for the league, told ESPN.com. "With the explosive growth of our events and industry, the stakes have gotten to a point where, just like traditional athletes, some have begun to look for that extra edge. With knowledge that there was likely active abuse of PEDs taking place, we immediately began serious discussions with top drug agencies for methods of prevention."
In order to ensure an even playing field, the ESL, which is headquartered in Germany, said it has partnered with the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in its country to take the next steps and will also involve the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to help carry out its rules and penalties when a policy is formed.
Lampkin said the key moment for the ESL was when Kory "Semphis" Friesen, who played Counter-Strike, with $250,000 in prizes on the line, claimed during an interview that he and his team had taken Adderall when they played at an event in Poland. The drug is used for ADHD, but in small doses has been found to increase stamina and alertness. The drug is banned by the major sports leagues for this reason.
"While it is impossible to go back and test the players, this really was the catalyst to demand immediate action for the integrity of our sport," Lampkin said.
Part of the reason for engaging the anti-doping agencies, Lampkin said, is to be able to stay ahead of the game.
"Psychostimulants like Adderall and beta-blockers look to be the most popular right now, but in the same way athletics commissions are constantly battling against the newest PEDs available, we expect our challenge to be similar," Lampkin said.
The ESL said it will immediately begin skin testing for performance-enhancing drugs at ESL One, which takes place in Germany next month.