Hot on the heels of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announcing that esports might ultimately come under its code, some elite gamers will get a taste of what that might mean at Olympic Esports Week when it starts on Thursday.
WADA told Reuters last month that the Global Esport Federation (GEF) had made an approach about putting together an education programme, a potential first step towards embracing the global anti-doping code.
The anti-doping element of this week’s inaugural Olympic event in Singapore will mainly be focused on education, although some events, such as cycling game Zwift, are run by the international federations and therefore subject to doping rules.
“I think from an Olympic movement perspective, the fairness of the competition has always been very important, and doping a key topic,” Vincent Pereira, the IOC’s Head Of Virtual Sport, told Reuters.
“The international federations are responsible to do doping regulations aligned with their own regulations ... alongside that as it’s a new competition space here in gaming, our will is also to provide some education sessions.”
Pereira said the feedback from players so far was that they were “super happy” to be involved in the doping education sessions.
“I believe it is necessary because just like any other sports in the Olympics, esports are legit sports,” said Singaporean Siti Zhwyee, who will compete in a dancing game.
“’Just Dance’ for example, it’s physically demanding so we want to make sure that all the players are clean.”
While all the games at this week’s Olympic event are based on sports and several involve exercise, that is not the case for much of the world of esports.
Gaming is a billion dollar industry and esports tournaments offer hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, so some players use performance-enhancing substances, such as stimulants, to stay alert during long hours at the keyboard.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognised esports as a “sports activity” in 2017 and it will be a medal event at a major multi-sports Games for the first time at the Asian Games in Hangzhou later this year.
To get into the Olympics proper, however, the GEF would have to be signatories to the WADA code and have a drug-testing regime in place.
“This is the first step on how the Olympic movement can help Esports to develop and take some good direction on these topics that are here to preserve the health of the players and the fairness of the competition,” Pereira added.
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