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Major League Gaming, the first professional gaming league in the U.S., shown here at E For All in October '07, offers winners big money and the chance to win sponsorships. With all the money comes allegations that some players are turning to drugs to take their game to the next level.  (Source:
Looking for a competitive edge, some pro-gamers turn to marijuana, amphetamines, and more

Doping scandals in the world of sports are nothing new.  As far back as 1889, James Francis "Pud" Galvin, the first pro-baseball pitcher to win 300 games, was advertising an elixir of monkey testosterone which he regularly took.  Today, in sports as diverse as baseball, cycling, mixed martial arts, and track and field, athletes are regularly banned and suspended for drug use.

Now, there's a new professional sport that's drawing these timeless tough questions -- professional gaming.  While some don't consider pro gaming a "sport" per se, they cannot deny the facts -- top pro gamers are professionals who are making a good deal of money, and regularly use their prestige to create lucrative brands.

In the U.S. alone there are two major leagues: Major League Gaming, which offers up to $100,000 a tournament in prize money and the newly created Championship Gaming Series, which has offered as much as $500,000 in tournaments.  These leagues have big sponsors.  Internationally, pro gaming is even bigger than here in the U.S. with elite gamers in countries like South Korea gaining celebrity status.

And like any sport where there's money involved, some people look to illegal or unregulated, but dangerous means to enhance their performance.  GamePlayer, Australia's leading gaming site ran an interesting piece on the topic where it identified commonly abused substances.  It identified, marijuana, amphetamines (speed), Dexamphetamine and Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Caffeine, and FpsBrain, the German drug cocktail previously blogged about here on DailyTech, as common drugs used when players want to gain an underhanded edge.

All of these drugs have serious consequences, particularly speed, which is known for its high fatality rate (no pun intended).  But is this use really going on?   GamePlayer wrote a follow-up piece in which it interviews Alex Walker, the director of a major international gaming tournament, the Australian World Cyber Games Tournament.

When asked if he knows of players abusing drugs with the intention of enhancing performance, Mr. Walker acknowledged:

It's funny because it's true. I know a lot of people through games that take drugs, although that's not related to gaming. It's more a social thing. But get any large group of people together, add drugs, and someone's bound to push the limit.

I noticed that you made a mention about people claiming they were better after having a bong or two. That's true. I've seen a number of players at national tournaments who came in "baked" (that's stoned for the uninformed) purely so they could play better. In most cases they did, although obviously they couldn't just pull out another joint midway through.

In one WCG, a player I knew took amphetamines an hour before his match to boost his reflexes. His team ended up losing the match, although it certainly had an impact - his performance helped his team to win one map out of three - it kind of hits home that only the really talented will come out on top in the end.

Worldwide, there seems to be a silent consensus that this is occurring, be it players using illegal drugs or abusing legal ones, such as caffeine pills.  While its certainly questionable whether these drugs overall truly give players an unfair advantage, or if a placebo effect from thinking they have an advantage comes into play, the fact remains that this is a surprisingly serious issue for this fun-centric sport to address.

It's going to be tough to find a solution, as experts point out.  Drug testing can be very expensive, and gaming leagues already struggle under lower profit margins and less sponsorships than most major league sports.  Furthermore, casual usage of substances such as marijuana has often been associated with the gaming culture and enacting strict drug testing could create a backlash among gamers.

Directors like Mr. Walker, have seen people in the past gaming in an obviously altered state.  In these occurrences, perhaps a kind reprimand and request to leave would be sufficient.  At least then pro-gaming would not have to suffer the negative PR from reports that it is turning a blind eye to drug abuse.

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RE: grass?
By Bender 123 on 8/29/2008 10:47:10 AM , Rating: 3
Ritalin is actually a schedule 2 drug and a stimulant.

RE: grass?
By Polynikes on 8/29/2008 11:01:05 AM , Rating: 2
Which is why it's the perfect treatment for hyperactive kids.

RE: grass?
By Bender 123 on 8/29/2008 11:10:15 AM , Rating: 2

Nothing says good medicine, like chemical parent.

RE: grass?
By borismkv on 8/29/2008 11:34:51 AM , Rating: 1
Actually, the current theory of ADD is that it is caused primarily by the brain not resting properly. The minds if people who suffer from ADD are constantly racing and are unable to grasp on to a single stimulus for long periods of time because they are operating as though they've been awake for 48 hours straight or more. The stimulant nature of Ritalin increases the chemicals in the brain that induce alertness, which in turn allows the brain to focus better.

RE: grass?
By Bender 123 on 8/29/2008 1:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
Your first line...
Actually, the current theory of ADD is that it is caused primarily by the brain not resting properly.

is the bulk of the problem. There is no documented physical reason that even proves ADD/ADHD even exists...and even the companies that manufacture Ritalin will readily admit they dont know why/how it works. It sounds bad from a research standpoint and adds credence to the point that Docs/parents are looking for the easy way out, with little thought or knowledge of exactly what they are doing.

To keep with the South Park theme..."SHUT UP AND STUDY!!!" works and Ritalin causes Christina Aguilera monsters to appear around you.

RE: grass?
By PCXLFan on 8/29/2008 1:33:16 PM , Rating: 1
They know how it works. In the most basic science its essentially the same effect you get from other stimulants since it falls under the stimulant drug category.

RE: grass?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/30/2008 6:49:14 PM , Rating: 2
There is no documented physical reason that even proves ADD/ADHD even exists.

Thats easy for you to say. You don't have it.

It exists. Trust me.

RE: grass?
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 8/29/2008 3:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
If you don't mind stunting their growth. I know several kids who are smaller then their younger boy (both boys). The smaller boy was on that drug, in both cases.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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