Winners Do Use Drugs – Performance Enhancing Drug use in eSports

Hey friends, it’s Joaby here with a new video editorial. Today we’re going to talk about the Performance Enhancing Drugs scandal in Counter-Strike and why I think Performance enhancing drugs should be allowed in eSports.

The knee jerk reaction to drug use anywhere is negative. Drugs are bad, mmkay? The concept of altering how the chemicals in your brain are balanced is treated as one of the worst things you can do, a shortcut to a life full of pain and regret. In tv shows, in movies, in (some) songs, drugs are treated as an ever-present evil. Walter White’s initial motives are pure – he needs to earn enough  money to support his family while also paying the ridiculous bills the American Medical system puts upon sick people. That’s a good guy action. But he does a “bad thing” by using his knowledge of chemistry to create methamphetamines. He breaks bad by making drugs. Now, admittedly, he was contributing to a marketplace run by murderers and thieves, and there is no question that he gradually reached a point where he was a bad person. I’m not trying to argue that all drugs are good, or that there shouldn’t be any rules or anything. Up front, all I’m saying is that for a lot of people, after years of being indoctrinated into an anti-drug culture, the gut reaction to any ‘illicit’ drug use people have is ‘drugs are bad mmkay’.

And I don’t agree with the concept on principle. When it was revealed that ‘every’ Counter-Strike pro player is on ‘Adderall’, I could tell what the reaction would be. Say it with me – drugs are bad mmkay. And the reaction was as I expected. People called for sanctions and drug screenings and tests and declared things like ‘eSports will never be legitimate until they get their drug problem under control.’

The last one is the cause for all the others, probably. Legitimacy is one of those things people care deeply about when it comes to eSports, because deep down inside it seems a lot of people who play games remain petrified that people will make fun of them for liking games. It reminds me of the “are games art” conversation, just pointless hand-wringing as people who are worried about being ‘cool’ concern themselves over the opinions of people who ultimately shouldn’t matter. Games are art if you think they’re art, and eSports will be legitimate when people stop worrying about their legitimacy.

But I digress. The revelation that CS players are/were taking Adderall for its performance enhancing properties – properties which are well documented and understood – lead to many calls for stricter drug screening in eSports. But I don’t think they should. I don’t think Performance Enhancing Drugs should be managed in eSports, and, after 4 minutes, I’m finally going to dive into why that is.

The ‘problems’ with performance enhancing drugs in sports are numerous and complex, but I’m going to try to boil them down to a few key factors. The first is the health risk these drugs pose. Chris Benoit was, in his time, a world class pro wrestler. He was a high-flying, high octane sports entertainment superstar more than capable of carrying a match when he needed to, and he was dedicated enough to the kayfabe – the façade that wrestling is real, which used to be a very, very important concept inside the WWE – that he would finish a match despite a few fairly serious injuries. To manage a lifestyle which involved regularly putting his body in harm’s way, Benoit was treated with a mixture of anti-depressants and painkillers – not all of these prescribed by medical professionals. But the real cause of his descent into dementia – the medical examiner who performed his autopsy said Benoit’s brain resembled that of an advanced Alzheimer’s patient – was the abuse of performance enhancing synthetic testosterone.

Pro-Wrestling is a combat/contact sport (or sports entertainment). It involves scenarios where performers risk injury to their central nervous system regularly – regularly enough to have a cute little name for temporary paralysis, which wrestlers call a ‘stinger’ – and more than that, they risk Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE injuries via repeated untreated concussions. It’s not unique to Pro-Wrestling – Ice Hockey, various forms of football, boxing and mixed martial arts — all risk CTE injuries via the very nature of the sports themselves – massive, epic sized people doing their darnedest to collide with one another as hard as possible.

Regardless of whether or not Roid Rage, where steroids abusers find themselves unnaturally hostile towards others, is a myth or not, the reality is this – CTEs lead to advanced degradation of the brain in a manner commonly resembling dementia, which can lead to mood swings and hostility. So, we finally reach the point. In combat or contact sports, Performance Enhancing Drug abuse leads directly to greater incidences of injuries due to the nature of the sports themselves – not only can a person on steroids punch harder than a human naturally should, but someone using testosterone can and will put their body in harm’s way with more vigour thanks to an increased resilience and a feeling of unnatural superiority. Steroid abuse can and does lead to dramatic health problems amongst its takers, and as a result as a performance enhancing drug it’s hard to back. When you’re talking about millions of dollars on the line, someone will take three years of big hits on the gridiron if they don’t have to work for the rest of their lives – but those big hits have long-reaching and deep implications for their physical and mental health. Brain injuries don’t always go away after you leave the NFL.

Those health risks aren’t really at play with eSports drug use, however. Adderall abuse isn’t dangerous in the same way as synthetic testosterones, and the nature of the sport itself isn’t dangerous. The effects that a pro-eSports player is chasing when they take Adderall aren’t improved or increased when a dosage is exceeded, which means it’s counter-intuitive for players to take more than the amount an 11 year old would take if the drug were prescribed to them by their doctor.

The fact that Adderall is a drug often given to 11 year olds by doctors sums up the potential health risks, really. There definitely are health risks related to adderall abuse, and there are risks involved in using the drug – like any alteration of your internal chemistry, there are risks involved. But when people worry about Performance Enhancing Drugs in sports, one of the reasons they’re worried is because people can ruin their lives – and I’d argue that ultimately forcing players to hide their use of amphetamines from competition organisers would lead to greater instances of lives being ruined due to the players needing to find sneakier ways to acquire the product.

The second reason people reject the idea of PEDs has to do with fairness and honesty. Lance Armstrong was, at one point, the 7 time Tour De France champion, a hero to kids, a cameo in Dodgeball and an immensely popular representation of American superiority as represented in lycra. He was the god damn king of cycling, a sport I don’t and will probably never understand. He performed at the highest level in a sport that isn’t supposed to involve any contact at all. There was little risk for his health (beyond the usual physiological changes attributed to long term steroid abuse), but when it was revealed that he had been abusing synthetic testosterones, he was crucified. Public Enemy Number 1. Worse than hitler and all that shit. He was scum.

Because Lance Armstrong said multiple times that his victories were his own, and he repeatedly and aggressively rejected any accusations that he was using performance enhancing drugs. He lied, over and over again, and off the back of those lies he gained an advantage over other racers. He betrayed the public’s trust, he accepted adulation as a hero and he turned that adulation into endorsements with [look up endorsements]. Lance Armstrong is the essence of this facet of the Performance Enhancing Drugs problem – he is a liar and a cheat, a tall poppy cut down with due cause, and here’s the thing – he never falls from grace in a world where performance enhancing drugs aren’t verboten.

In a world where athletes at the top of their game are not just accepted, but expected to enhance their abilities using PEDs, Lance Armstrong is still a hero. He’s still at the top of his game. All evidence points to the fact that Lance wasn’t alone in taking PEDs – all cyclists at the pinnacle of the sport were. But for the general public, who is only casually aware of Lance via his many accolades or by way of the media outrage following his condemnation, Lance might be the only evil soul among them. His crime was so much grander not because he cheated – as far as anyone can tell, many were cheating – it was a grander crime because he lied about it.

Consider this me going on the record to declare my disinterest in scanning eSports athletes for PEDs. These days, using medication to enhance your life isn’t just common, it’s expected. We live in an age where people take a baby aspirin to lower blood pressure. Now is the time when you can get a pill to make your dick rock hard. We live in an era where feeling sad for ‘no’ reason can be fixed (to an extent). You can’t walk for 20 minutes without passing a bar that serves a depressant mixed with a stimulant at half-price during happy hour. You can buy a can the size of your mobile phone with four times your daily recommended intake of taurine. Mountain Dew has more caffeine in it than coffee.

This is the world we live in. Everyone is self-medicating. Everyone is enhancing their performance. Nobody’s operating unaided. Why expect athletes to do any different, especially if it’s not hurting anyone?

Idiotic hang-ups about eSports legitimacy shouldn’t impact the concept itself. At the end of the day, harsh regulation regarding the use of performance enhancing substances in eSports does nothing except placate outdated and illogical ideas regarding what eSports should be. Forcing competitive athletes, who will continue to always search for an edge over their opponents no matter what, to hide their medicating only sets them up for failure down the road. It will create the same arms race it did in cycling as those searching for an edge learn to hide their use better, which will lead to worse medicating practices and higher chances of overdose related addiction.

In my vision of the world, Winners Use Drugs. They’re going to no matter what anyway.

Thanks for watching. If you liked this video, hit like and subscribe for more stuff like it. I know this is a controversial subject, let me know what you think about it in the comments. For the full script of this video, head to – which is also the home of Australia’s longest running video games podcast, by the way. My fan funding thing is still on, so if you want to buy me a beer head to my channel page and click the button on the right of the screen. But as always you don’t have to – I’m just glad you stayed this long. Thanks again, bye!

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