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E-sports and its anti-doping mechanisms.

*Written by Eugene Solomon Philomene.




Introduction


The term E-Sports is the abbreviation for electronic sports. As with other traditional types of sport, E-Sports is about competition or measuring with others in a particular discipline. The basis of E-Sports is a computer and video games, which can be played competitively by individual players or teams depending on the game type. In recent years, E-sports have turned into a global phenomenon with it being introduced at the Olympics for the first time later this year.


But just like every other sport, E-sports has also seen the advent of unfair means and doping. The intertwining of the words doping and e-sports raises some eyebrows as doping or rather the practice of the same has been related to physical sports as the word doping is defined in the sports circuit as the use of illegal/prohibited substances to gain an unfair advantage over the opponent. So how does doping work in the world of e-sports and how exactly does one gain an advantage from it in a platform that is a mix of the real world and virtual reality?

In the real world, the players may take substances like Adderall which is known to induce a laser-sharp focus[1]– it is a huge advantage in first-person shooting games (FPS). Players are also known for taking beta-blockers, which relax and regulate the irregular heart activity of the player which may go to certain heights during 1v4 clutch situations. For doping in the virtual world, these ‘athletes’ use software or hardware that gives them an unfair advantage over their opponents. This may be termed Mechanical or E - Doping[2][3].


E-Sports Governing Bodies And Their Flaws


Now, it is common knowledge that WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) is the organization at the forefront that acts as the custodian of the moral ethics of the world of sports by acting as the regulatory body with respect to doping incidents among players and teams. Following the rise of the world of Esports, in coalition with WADA, the International Esports Federation was established as a recognized body in 2013. And since then, they have worked in conjunction with WADA to create a comprehensive anti-doping code in the world of Esports. At the same time, two more organizations have taken shape in the world of e-sports World Esports Association (WESA) and the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC).

In 2018, Nikhil “Foresaken” Kumawat, an Indian Esports player was caught, doping as he was found guilty of using cheat codes during an international tournament, which gave him an unfair advantage over his opponents. The sports Integrity Commission presided over the case and banned him for a period of five years from competing in tournaments. While this might seem like a landmark judgement in the right direction, there are still various flaws with the system of governance in the world of Esports with respect to doping issues.


WESA was a foundation that was started by Esports gaming, and they only cater to games that are founded specifically by Esports gaming. When it comes to regulating e-doping specifically, WESA does very little. Its code of conduct, for example, does not include a section on e-doping[4]. Instead, under the section titled “Integrity of Matches and Competitions,” WESA’s code of conduct simply states: “Persons bound by this Code must not conspire to influence the result of a match in a manner contrary to sporting ethics[5].” Within its integrity-of-matches provisions, WESA prohibits gambling but not e-doping[6]. The section titled “Doping” only mentions traditional doping[7]. This is a red herring in itself as a situation like the Forsaken case is not something that is accounted for in the rule book. As WESA only governs its players and the competitions of one game—out of the many games and genres that constitute e-sports—WESA does not, by itself, provide industry-wide standards for e-doping that other organizations must follow. The Esports Integrity Commission(ESIC) which was formed in 2016 addresses e-doping in its code of conduct, but ESIC does not set industry standards because it only governs its tournaments and member teams. Similarly, the International Esports Federation, the term e-doping is not a part of IESF’s competition regulations, but the “Integrity” section states that “[n]o forms of cheating are allowed within the tournament[s][8].” While the issue of e-doping is briefly addressed in IESF’s regulations, the organization’s reach cannot go beyond IESF championships and member institutions.


Conclusion


Now arises the situation of what can be done to combat this situation and how uniformity can be brought to the different bodies that govern the Esports world. E-sports should adopt a single internal regulatory body based on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to better address e-doping concerns because e-sports shares similarities with cycling that other sports like soccer do not share. This is because the world of Esports and cycling share similarities in various respects. Esports includes various genres just like cycling and the UCI has different mechanisms in place for the different disciplines of cycling such as road racing, BMX etc. Cycling is a multigenre sport that confronts mechanical doping issues[9]. UCI regulations include separate sections for each genre of cycling with rules that address the specific genre’s needs[10]. The cycling industry has been combatting the issue of mechanical doping at the professional level for years and has made progress to maintain the integrity of the sport with specific regulations of mechanical doping and improvements in testing technology[11]. Esports can adopt these mechanisms to assist them in e-doping issues.

The e-sports industry is currently packed with organizations hoping to regulate e-sports, with little success[12]. These organizations may have little incentive to give up their current authority and conform to a single regulatory body[13]. But e-sports will continue to grow as an industry, and with the greater prevalence of e-sports, governmental bodies may soon intervene to regulate the industry, taking regulatory power out of the hands of industry experts[14]. If existing e-sports organizations join a single governing body as this Note proposes, they can have their input reflected in the uniform structure for e-sports, rather than losing control over how to regulate their industry[15]. Both FIFA and UCI formed out of existing associations from different countries coming together to establish a uniform governing body[16], and the e-sports industry should do the same. As seen with UCI, a single governing body can house various member federations that represent countries around the world[17]. According to the UCI constitution, “The members of the UCI shall be the national federations accepted by the Congress as being the representative organization for the sport of cycling in general in the country of that national federation[18].” The UCI follows the mechanism where their board permits one federation per country to become a part. Similarly, the E-sports governing body can also adopt a mechanism where they have members that represent each country and can rope in existing E-sports federations for all to come under the same umbrella. The current situation shows that the existing regulations on doping in the E-sports realm are at best inconsistent and vague, it can be solved with the introduction of a single governing body which lays down uniform rules and regulations for all formats and types of games, as currently, no organization does it for E-sports. Taking into consideration that the platform for E-sports is global, it should be having representatives in its governing body from around the world. E-sports is the future and it is here. The future of E-sports can only be brightened if a uniform regulatory body is in place that upholds the ethos and the spirit of the realm much like any other sport.









*The author is a law scholar from Jindal Global Law School, OP Jindal Global University, India.












(The image used here is for representative purposes only)














References:

[1] https://rsrr.in/2019/07/28/understanding-e-doping/

[2] Id.

[3] Chanda, Subhrajit, and Shaun Star. "Contouring E-doping: A menace to sportsmanship in E-sports;" Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, Turkey (E - ISSN: 1309-6591); 12 (8); 966-981 (2021).

[4] See WESA, CODE OF CONDUCT AND COMPLIANCE FOR TEAMS AND PLAYERS (2017), http://www.wesa.gg/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/WESA-Code-of-Conduct-Teams-and-Players-Final-03052019-1.pdf [https://perma.cc/3EZG-3LG6] (including no mention of e-doping)

[5] Id. § 19.1

[6] Id. § 19.2

[7] Id. § 19.3

[8] NT’L ESPORTS FED’N, supra note 18, at 15.

[9] Supra Section III.B; infra Section III.D.

[10] Infra Section III.D.

[11] Michael Pavitt, UCI Reveal No Cases of Technological Fraud Uncovered at Tour de France, INSIDE THE GAMES (July 13, 2021), https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1110095/no-technologicalfraud-tour-de-france [https://perma.cc/24G4-BH2X] (relating the UCI innovation manager’s statements about the “thorough and extensive” testing for the Tour de France and about how UCI continuously innovates to enhance its testing efficacy in order “to be sure [it has] the trust of cycling’s fans and stakeholders”).

[12] Martinelli, supra note 72, at 506.

[13] Ingram, supra note 93

[14] For example, the South Korean government created the Korea Esports Association, managing Korea’s e-sports scene and building e-sports arenas. John, supra note 43; see KESPA, supra note 41. The e-sports scenes in other countries have also seen government recognition and involvement. See David Hoppe, Five Key Ways Governments Are Getting Involved in Esports, GAMMA L. (Feb. 13, 2020), https:// gammalaw.com/five-key-ways-governments-getting-involved-in-esports [https://perma.cc/MV8W-9UB6] (discussing how governments in countries like Russia, China, Germany, and Japan have become involved in e-sports in their respective countries); Neslyn Apduhan, Japanese Government Devises Plan for Esports Expansion, ESPORTS INSIDER (Apr. 1, 2020), https://esportsinsider.com/2020/04/japan-government-esports-plan [https://perma.cc/JJ3Y-CMZX]; Byungho “Haao” Kim & Daniel “Quest” Kwon, Chinese Government Officially Recognizes Esports as a Reputable Profession, INVEN GLOB. (Feb. 23, 2021), https://www.invenglobal.com/articles/13371/chinese-government-officially-recognizesesports-as-a-reputable-profession [https://perma.cc/36T8-XBVC]

[15] See Ingram, supra note 93, at 520 (“By participating in a body working to promote transparency and standardization, eSports companies will send a strong message to investors that the industry is becoming more organized and efficient.”).

[16] See FIFA — Soccer’s World Governing Body, supra note 182; 1900: A Major Cycling Organization Is Born in Paris, supra note 182.

[17] Continental Confederations and National Federations – Information, UNION CYCLISTE INTERNATIONALE, https://www.uci.org/continental-confederations-and-national-federations-information -main-page/6AutcpFCy486Rae3Gs5cKP [https://perma.cc/7PD3-WYJS].

[18] UNION CYCLISTE INTERNATIONALE, CONSTITUTION 5 (2019), https://www.uci.org/docs/defaultsource/rules-and-regulations/uci-constitution-and-standing-orders.pdf [https://perma.cc/X22L-GVBP].