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Education first but drug-testing in gamers' future, says Wada

But if e-sports wants to become part of the Olympic programme it would, like every other sport, have to be compliant with the Wada Code, which means athletes are subject to testing including out-of-competition.

“You have athletes for e-sports coming completely outside any anti-doping regiment but they are there and with other athletes who are subjected to strict rules and the Code,” said Niggli.

“We really want to encourage now that e-sports to be a bit more regulated in terms of the potential use of prohibited substances.” REUTERS

TORONTO – Gamers who use stimulants could be frozen out of competitions after the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and Global Esport Federation (GEF) said they will work on an education programme that could lead to signing onto the Wada Code and open the door to the Olympics.

Wada said it had been approached by the GEF about developing a plan around health and wellness which could alert gamers, who spend hours and even days behind screens, to the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite the fact that gaming is a billion-dollar industry and e-sports tournaments offer hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, it has no regulatory body for drug testing.

“Esport Federation realises that they have now a real need to start educating their players because they see there are challenges in the abuse of substances,” Wada director general Olivier Niggli said.

“They play for 16-18 hours a day, they have a bad lifestyle that is not very healthy. They have health concerns. Doping is one of them. Clearly the way they are playing requires some support.”

Melita Moore, a GEF board member, said it was well-known that there were performance-enhancing substances being used in e-sports. But before there can be drug-testing, Wada must meet the e-sports community and start to provide education and awareness around health and performance.

“There is not a regulatory body in e-sports. Therefore, the word doping does not exist in the same context as it does in traditional sport,” she said.

“Which means there isn’t anti-doping measures... (but) I do believe that in the future, there will be a regulatory body and doping will become part of the nomenclature used in e-sports.”

The rapidly growing world of e-sports and its popularity among young people has caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which in 2017 recognised it as a sports activity.

“Whether they could one day be considered for the Olympic programme the answer is yes,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in 2020. “It depends when this day is coming.”

That day would appear close at hand.

E-sports made its major multi-sport event debut as a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, which due to Covid-19 have been rescheduled to Sept 23-Oct 8.