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Pro Gaming Faces a Surprising Challenge: Doping

Professional gaming has gone from quaint sideshow to multimillion-dollar prizes in the span of a few years. Tournaments for games like Counter-Strike, Starcraft and Dota 2 have exploded on the international stage — but as they say: more money, more problems. Increased competition pressure on players, many of whom play games full time, has reportedly led to widespread drug problems, according to Bjoern Franzen, a longtime veteran of the pro gaming world.

"It’s a natural thing for some League of Legends players to pop three different kinds of smart drugs before a tournament game," wrote Franzen in a recent blog post. "Neuroenhancement for cyberatheletes... is one of the industry's best kept secrets." By "neuroenhancement" he means psychoactive drugs like Ritalin and modafinil, often prescribed by psychiatrists for mental disorders and disabilities but also dealt under the table and abused for all-night cram sessions, recreational use — or a million-dollar pro gaming match. Performance-enhancing drugs are officially banned in many tournaments, Franzen writes, but no testing is done. Franzen wants that to change, and hopes his post will help start the dialogue.

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—Devin Coldewey