Background with DNA symbol with a blue tint. Foreground has the words 'ESL Introduces Doping Control' and an ESL logo in the top right corner

In the magnificent world of eSports, the real thrill lies in its players competing on an even playing field. From Sports and MMOGA (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) titles to Fighting and FPS (First Person Shooter) ones, every game requires players to possess a particular set of skills to beat opponents and claim victory. These victories often have massive cash rewards in high-stakes eSports tournaments.

Related: Top 5 eSports Games of 2018

An example of an eSports tournament with a massive payout is 2017’s League of Legends World Championship Finals. The LoL tournament was hosted in Beijing and had a final prize pool of a whopping $4,946,970 USD (approx.). In high-stake competitions like these, the use of substances that give pro gamers unfair advantage over their opponents are are strictly banned by the Electronic Sports League (ESL).

Of course, certain drugs like Adderall may be used after attaining the express permission of an eSports tournament authority or league commissioner. While other substances that help build strength and focus are legal and can be used without the permission of tournament authorities. But there exists a list of banned substances that are a complete no-go in eSports competitions.

WADA logo, ESL Logo, banned substances, esports, esports tournaments

The ESL together with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have shortlisted certain Stimulants, Narcotics, Cannabinoids, and Glucocorticoids as banned substances from all eSporting events. For your knowledge, we’ve included a comprehensive list of them plus the legal ones below.



This one makes a lot of sense. Drugs like Adrafnil that increase vigilance, awareness, etc. are prohibited with few exceptions.

Legal Stimulants – Clonidine, Imidazole derivatives for topical/ophthalmic use, Bupropion, Caffeine, Nicotine, Phenylephrine, Phenylpropanolamine, Pipradrol, and Synephrine.

Illegal Stimulants – Adrafinil, Amfepramone, Amfetamine, Amfetaminil, Amiphenazole, Benfluorex, Benzylpiperazine, Bromantan, Clobenzorex, Cocaine, Cropropamide, Crotetamide, Fencamine, Fenetylline, Fenfluramine, Fenproporex, Fonturacetam [4-phenylpiracetam (carphedon)], Furfenorex, Lisdexamfetamine, Mefenorex, Mephentermine, Mesocarb, Metamfetamine(d-), p-methylamphetamine, Modafinil, Norfenfluramine, Phendimetrazine, Phentermine, Prenylamine, Prolintane, Selegiline, Sibutramine, Strychnine, Tenamfetamine (methylenedioxyamphetamine), and Tuaminoheptane.

Noteworthy – eSports players holding a valid prescription for a smart drug like Adderall must inform the concerned regulatory authority and provide a legitimate physician’s note to qualify for eSports tournaments.  


This one’s obvious. You wouldn’t need a dose of Morphine before a game of Counter Strike: Global Offensive unless of course you were physically in the game.

Illegal Narcotics – Buprenorphine, Dextromoramide, Diamorphine (heroin), Fentanyl and its derivatives, Hydromorphone, Methadone, Morphine, Nicomorphine, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Pentazocine, and Pethidine.


Whether or not you believe cannabis should be legalized in your country/state is irrelevant here. Consuming a calming substance during an eSports match can give an eSports team the upper hand as they might be able to handle a high stress situation better than their opposing team.

Legal Cannabinoids – Cannabidio

Illegal Cannabinoids – Natural Cannabinoids, e.g. Cannabis, Hashish and Marijuana, Synthetic Cannabinoids e.g. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other Cannabimimetics.

Noteworthy – The ESL has absolutely no problem with eSports players consuming it recreationally outside of eSports tournaments, but have banned it from being used on the days of eSports tournaments.


Though these are mere supplements that help prevent inflammation, they are still steroids and are associated with quite a few serious side effects that can cause severe bodily harm.

Illegal Glucocorticoids (Include but not limited to) – Betamethasone, Budesonide, Cortisone, Deflazacort, Dexamethasone, Fluticasone, Hydrocortisone, Methylprednisolone, Prednisolone, Prednisone, and Triamcinolone.

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There is a substance in particular that has been the main topic of conversation in the eSports world for quite some time now and that’s the aforementioned Adderall of course. A universally banned smart drug in eSports and competitive sports in general, Adderall; when prescribed by a doctor for medically legitimate reasons may be consumed during eSports tournaments after prior approval from the appropriate authority, while non-prescribed usage is traditionally banned from all sports and that too for a justified reason.

While Adderall helps ADHD, ADD and narcolepsy sufferers, perfectly healthy pro gamers usually consume it to increase stamina, focus, playability and consistency. This illegal usage tips the scale in favor of the gamers who use it as they are able to take advantage of their higher level of awareness, especially in First Person Shooter games like CS: GO, to beat their sober opponents.

The Electronic Sports League’s crackdown on performance-enhancing substances like smart drugs came about after one professional eSports players’ admission to using Adderall.

Pro Gamer Kory Friesen Celebrating match victory

“We live in a win-at-all-costs era today” – Kory ‘Semphis’ Friesen

Kory Friesen, a professional Counter Strike gamer better known by his eSports players handle “Semphis,” spoke about the excessive use of a stimulant commonly used to treat ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in a candid interview with Mohan Govindasamy in July 2015. During this un-scripted and brutally honest interview, Friesen offhandedly mentioned that each member of his Counter Strike eSports team consumed performance-enhancing drugs during an eSports competition in Poland.

Related: Top 5 eSports Players 2018

“We were all on Adderall,” Friesen said, referring of course to the amphetamine-based stimulant drug Adderall. According to Friesen, if people had only paid close attention to the communication between his team’s players during the games it would’ve seemed pretty obvious they were on a stimulant.

From the interviewers’ nonchalant reaction to Kory Friesen’s comments and casual unflustered demeanor, the interview made one thing absolutely clear; Adderall consumption among eSports players seemed as common as sipping coffee for a quick wake-me-up!

Here is Semphis’ complete tell-all interview with Mohan Govindasamy, Enjoy!

Shortly after Kory Friesen’s statements, the ESL announced plans to put-into-force regulations and drug tests around performance-enhancing drugs like Adderall in the same month. Together with the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in Germany, and the World Anti-Doping Agency, the ESL has been successful in creating and executing a comprehensive drug policy that has set a high standard for eSports tournaments everywhere.

Click Here to download the full list of substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Industry for all sports.


Since the inception of drug tests in eSports, not a single pro gamer has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (so far). But when a pro gamer does test positive for doping, they can look forward to a wide range of punishments that include:

  • Prize money deductions
  • Tournament point subtraction
  • Tournament disqualification
  • Up to 2 years ban from all ESL events

All of these punishments lead to potential loss of sponsorship & other benefits. And depending on the player’s moral clauses in their contract, doping could lead to them ultimately losing their place on their eSport team.


Hand holding game-pad with television in front

Unless you’re competing in an eSport Tournament authorized by the Electronic Sports League (ESL) or any other regulatory authority, the banned substances we listed above need not concern you.

Non-pro gamers that compete in the eSport Minor league, which are primarily online via Igaming websites can take all the substances they need to win due to one major oversight in ESL’s plan – eSport Minor League players’ mainly compete online.

And since there aren’t nor can ever be home-delivered tests for every gamer who competes in Minor League matches on their own console and/or from the comfort of their own house, drug testing in the lower eSport divisions will continue to be incredibly problematic.

Contrary to pro gamers who compete in high-stakes and heavily-monitored “face-to-face” matches, eSport Minor League players are left to their own devices behind long-distance internet connections.

While the ESL requires all eSport players to compete utilizing regulated pro-circuit software, thereby eliminating the risk of cheating via hacking and modding, they’re relying on an old-fashioned idea called “honesty” for using performance-enhancing drugs in the minor divisions.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not promoting the use of these banned substances, all we’re saying is that there isn’t a rule book that says you can’t take smart drugs like Modafinil to win non-ESL-regulated eSport matches.

Here are some of the best athletic sport supplements that will biohack your mental and physical gaming performance legally (without giving you lockjaw):

Vision Enhancers for Gamers

  • C3G – CEG might just be the most helpful drug for gamers because it’s known to accelerate the speed of retinal electrical transmission, which fosters quicker reflexes. It also diminishes eye strain, improves contrast sensitivity, and speeds up recovery from flash blindness.
  • Lutein + Zeaxanthin – Lutein sharpens low-light vision and reduces glare, while Zeaxanthin mainly sharpens the performance of “high-resolution” vision.
  • Astaxanthin – Astaxanthin has been known to improve depth perception and focus speed, as well as energize vision performance.

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Nootropics for Gamers

  • Racetams (except phenylpiracetam) – In addition to improving cognition, A) Oxiracetam boosts logical thinking, B) Noopept aids memory consolidation & retrieval, and C) Aniracetam reduces anxiety.
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine – Increases performance under high-pressure situations, improves mental alertness, and enhances multitasking.
  • Rhodiola + Ashwagandha + Ginseng – Reduced fatigue during long training days, decreases anxiety & stress levels, enhances mental energy & functionality.
  • L-Theanine + Caffeine – Promotes steady and energized focus with the added benefit of improved creativity.
  • Citicoline – Optimizes brain “ecosystem” for mental processing & short-term quick thinking as well as long-term memory retrieval & consolidation.
  • Bacopa Monnieri – Mainly helps retain information during studying/training, and it may improve mental performance during gameplay.


Educating pro gamers on the risks associated with banned drugs is critical as they need to know what happens when they use and abuse illegal substances. High doses of Adderall for instance can lead to changes in blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, and elevated body temperature. In a worst case scenario, an eSport player could end up in a coma or risk addiction due to chronic drug use.

Esports is young much like many of its star players and with the industry’s fast growth rate, controversies like these are not only inevitable, but kind of necessary in order for it be recognized as a legitimate sport the world over. As eSports evolves over the coming years and edges even closer to being viewed as a sport in the traditional sense of the term, they’ll need to be more stringent integrity measures in place.

Ultimately, as the sporting world continues to grow and research continues to unearth truths, more substances will be removed and/or added from and/or to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s illegal substances list. You never know, steroids and some stimulants may one day find freedom in the world of Esports once the dust has settled and appropriate substances are weeded out. Until then, professional pro gamers must stay clean of any banned substances and fight a fair fight to safeguard the future and longevity of Esports.

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Remi Fujisawa
3 years ago

They should be more strict when it comes to banning a player or a team. Player can easily manipulate a match if they want to earn more $.

Zero Absolute
3 years ago

Good thing that they take actions immediately just like what happen on OpTic.India.Forsaken, they banned it right away when they saw that Forsaken has using an 3rd party hax on a lan tournament.

Serenity Foster
3 years ago

I’ve never heard of that gray area. Thank you for this helpful article! 🙂