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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: blog.triggeria.com)
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: Not surprising
By jtemplin on 9/3/2008 10:36:40 AM , Rating: 2
Your explanation of the mechanism by which caffeine exerts its stimulant effects is completely wrong.
quote:
The caffeine actually stimulates an immune response in a temporary increased rate of metabolism, as the body actually tries to excrete and clean the caffeine from the system. This is why coffee can give you the sweats, make you need to use the washroom, etc. Once you've become acclimated and addicted to this response you may not notice it or feel it as much, but rather than thinking of that as an "adaptation", one must ACTUALLY appreciate the stress their body must by under in order to NOT be having this response anymore. It is not a healthy bodily state. There is no "getting energy" involved...


When taken in moderation caffine is considered to be ergogenic. You can check the wiki for more info but research consistently shows moderate doses of caffeine improve athletic performance, both aerobic and anaerobic.

Any substance that artificially increases your heart rate (tachycardia) is not good for your heart in the long run. But used in moderation (as FIT was saying) caffeine is pretty safe. There was a widely publicized study recently released suggesting coffee consumption is associated with increased longevity.

You can begin your reading on the pharmacological mechanism of action here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine_receptor

Coffee study link:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/story?id=5179489...


RE: Not surprising
By General Disturbance on 9/3/2008 1:03:30 PM , Rating: 2
Yes I've already done that reading. And no, the explanation is not wrong, it actually fits perfectly with what you said. I know many athletes who consume coffee before working out or training, and it is specifically because of the increased rate of metabolism (i.e., increased heart rate, etc...) that is induced. There is a REASON that coffee stimulates that response, and the REASON is that the body is trying to metabolize and excrete the caffeine. It is not some magic drug that just gives you energy...there is a REASON why the body reacts to it, and it is because it is a poison taken in small quantities.

The best thing to increase longevity is to not drug your body at all and eat all raw natural foods, with small amounts of cooked meat, and light exercise. However, WE CERTAINLY CAN live a long, productive and happy life not doing this, smoking and drinking and eating at McD's, so I'm not preaching!!!! Please, eat and drink what you want!

There is a very common misconception, coined I think by various industry organizations, that "moderation" is the key to health. Well, no one knows what the hell moderation means, it only serves as a keyword for people to think "well my level of consumption is moderate and therefore I must be fine". How can everyone feel this way since everyone has different consumption habits? The truth is, moderation typically SHOULD mean hardly ever, not more than once a month. As others have pointed out, it can take several days for the body to correct itself after a caffeine ingestion, and so once a week would be too frequent in the case of a cup of coffee.

But whatever, as I said we can put all sorts of things in our body and still stay alive and feel happy and be productive and live until we have great-grand children, so really we needn't worry.

But for some, living in a physically and mentally highly optimized state can have certain rewards, and that is certainly worth exploring too.


RE: Not surprising
By jtemplin on 9/4/2008 8:09:43 PM , Rating: 2
I think me and you see eye to eye. I live the life you describe...

I do however find your wording a bit strong. Caffeine is not a poison, not by any reasonable standard.

From Wiki... LD 50 of: Caffeine Animal:rat Administration Route:oral LD50 192 mg/kg

It is definitely not a poison. The healthy lifestyle is whats up, but it needs to be guided by reason, not fear.

What originally stood out to me was you saying immune system. Its through the autonomic nervous system by which the effects are achieved, not the immune system. The nervous system (which controls the endocrine system) is in control of the immune system. So technically wrong. But like I said. I agree with your message. Healthy living is the key to happiness!

Cheers


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