The video game industry is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative markets in the United States and globally, which has in turn driven the growth of the competitive leagues for the industry's most popular titles. Electronic sports (esports) are loosely defined as "professional video game matches where players compete against each other before an audience, whether in person or online." While various forms of esports have been around since the 1980s, the explosion of the industry in the past decade has allowed for significant sums of prize money and projections for esports to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the future.
As in any other sport, the competitors in esports leagues face their own set of challenges concerning health and safety issues when trying to gain a competitive edge over their opponents. The most common health concern for esports competitors is compulsive gaming, which can lead to sleep deprivation and a dependency on "study drugs" to boost their focus and gaming abilities. These study drugs include amphetamines like Adderall and Ritalin that are prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The various ADHD drugs are preferred among esports competitors because they boost cognitive function, reduce mental fatigue, and cause players to react quicker to what they see on the screen. As opposed to the use of performance- enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports such as football and baseball that increase strength and endurance, gaining an advantage in esports revolves around increasing a competitor's mental acuity and ability to remain focused and alert while looking at a screen for hours at a time.
Because of the exhaustive mental demand that accompanies competitive video gaming, there have been several high-profile instances of study drug abuse in esports leagues. One of the most famous and controversial of these instances involved the Call of Duty League (CDL) superstar Cuyler "Huke" Garland. Huke and the Dallas Empire won the 2020 Call of Duty World Championship and just months after this victory, he released a video on his YouTube channel detailing his use of Adderall during that championship run. Despite the ubiquitous use of study drugs in esports, Adderall is a Schedule II drug, categorized along with cocaine and fentanyl. Because of this classification, all American sports leagues ban Adderall and other amphetamines." However, there are concerns that esports organizations are not doing enough to protect their players. David Howman, a former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), thinks that esports is the "Wild West" because of the lack of a uniform anti-doping scheme and enforcement issues.'
Because of its widespread popularity and recent struggles involving the use of study drugs among its competitors, the CDL is the ideal example to focus on how esports organizations can better implement changes to prevent unfair competition and better protect competitors. Call of Duty's publishing company, Activision-Blizzard, posted a revenue of $8.8 billion in 2021, with the Call of Duty title bringing in well over $1 billion. With such a massive potential for growth for the CDL, the league should create and enforce strict banned substance policies that are comparable to other sports leagues such as the National Football League (NFL)." Stricter policies will allow the CDL to protect both its players and its brand, as players winning championships while on these study drugs damages the integrity of the league and could lead to a loss of interest.
Part I of this article provides a brief history and overview of competitive Call of Duty video gaming and some of the more unique challenges that the competitors and CDL face regarding regulation. Part II provides an analysis and comparison of the anti-doping policies of other professional sports leagues and what the CDL might be able to learn and implement based on how the other traditional leagues are regulated. Finally, Part III will highlight the benefits that of an enhanced regulatory scheme and discuss the future of the CDL and its potential moving forward.
The Cost of Being Cracked: Why the Call of Duty League Should Implement A Stricter Study Drug Regulation Policy,
Loy. Consumer L. Rev.
Available at: https://lawecommons.luc.edu/lclr/vol35/iss1/2