On Monday, Timo "Taimou" Kettunen, a Finnish professional Overwatch player for a team called Dallas Fuel, once again brought to the forefront an issue in the still growing business of competitive gaming: the use of performance enhancing drugs.
"Imagine if you use Adderall and then it gets banned in the [Overwatch] League, and then you're like…there are probably 20 players who use Adderall in the League, and then imagine if it was illegal to completely use Adderall, they'd be so fucked dude," Kettunen said during a Twitch stream.
In 2015, a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen changed the esports business after admitting in an interview that he and his teammates "were all on Adderall" while they were competing. esport tournaments can last for six hours or more, and training sessions can last even longer, so some players, Friesen suggested, used Adderall to stay alert.
Adderall, much like Ritalin, is a psychostimulant usually used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and often abused by anyone that needs to stay concentrated for long periods of time.
We don't know if Kettunen is suggesting that the same practice is common in the Overwatch League, the official esports tournament for the first person shooter which is owned and operated by the game's developer, Blizzard. He might be suggesting that, if Blizzard implemented a strict ban on the drug, players who use it with a prescription from a doctor to treat a disorder like ADHD could be in trouble because they'd have to choose between taking the drug and competing in the League.
Kettunen and Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment.
After Friesen admitted to using Adderall in competitive settings in 2015, several esports tournament organizers implemented new regulations. Electronic Sports League (ESL), one of the largest esports organizations in the world, partnered with National Anti Doping Agentur (NADA) to implement random drug testing for its events.
As ESL's senior vice president of product Ulrich Schulze tweeted following Kettunen's statement about Adderall use in the Overwatch League, ESL has since administered hundreds of random tests and found no positives.
At the moment, Blizzard's code of conduct for the Overwatch League states that competitors can't be intoxicated when they're playing and on stage at League events, but otherwise does not implement any form of drug testing.
Earlier this year, Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer told Shacknews that he's yet to see a scientific report that says that there's any substance that makes people better at playing video games.
"It's something we'll continue to evaluate and keep our eyes on, as esports grows and evolves and as more studies come out on what potentially can affect performance in video games, but we haven't seen studies on that yet," he told Shacknews.
For what it's worth, my own, not very scientific experiment found that taking Adderall didn't make me a better Counter-Strike player, but it did help me focus on something for a longer period of time, whether that was playing a video game or replying to boring work emails. So while there's no drug that can boost an Overwatch players performance in the same way anabolic steroids can boost a weight lifter's performance, Adderall could help esports players power through long training sessions and tournaments.
The winning team of the first season of the Overwatch League won $1 million. Viewers might not care whether Overwatch players are using Adderall, but that's a lot of money on at stake when there's no system in place to check if players are doping. Are Overwatch players abusing Adderall to get an edge over their competition? Are there players in the Overwatch League that are using the drug to treat legitimately diagnosed disorders? Is there an environment where players are taking Adderall only because they think that's what it takes to compete? At the moment we have no way of knowing unless they choose to share that information because Blizzard does not implement drug tests.