Should esports follow the same doping rules as other sports? #PHILOSOPHY


Holden, J. T. , Kaburakis, A. & Wall Tweedie, J. (2019) Virtue(al) games—real drugs, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 13:1, 19-32, DOI:10.1080/17511321.2018.1459814



The growth of esports as a recognized, organized, competitive activity in North America and Europe has evolved steadily from one of the most prominent sport industries in several Asian countries. Esports, which is still pursuing a widely accepted governance structure, has struggled to control the factors that typically act as a breeding ground for sport corruption. Within the esports industry, there is alleged widespread use of both prescription and off-label use of stimulants, such as modafinil, methylphenidate, and dextroamphetamine. Anti-doping policy implementation in this environment may result in either the abuse of the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) system or excluding too many competitors who have a legitimate need for these medications. In this paper, we contextualize esports and substance use within this emerging industry. Subsequently, we outline the specific challenges faced by esports organizations in crafting policies to address PEDs—one of the industry’s most pressing issues. Further, we provide the application of MacIntyre’s virtue ethics conceptual framework to highlight ethical tensions within the industry. This lens elucidates the direction forward for esports should be one determined to foster virtue in the practice.

The Data

Not applicable.


“esports have been corrupted by various vices that have befallen more traditional sports” (p20)

“We suggest that MacIntyre’s goods-virtues-practices-institutions framework may be helpful for understanding how to best address doping in the emergent esports mainstream world because of the evolving and transitioning nature of the field.” (p23)

“the current esports context may depict an ineffective balance of [internal v. external goods], at the expense of the practice, and thus fostering a climate for cheating and corruption. The challenge ahead for esports organizations is to achieve the point of balance emphasizing internal goods, the distinction is a matter of virtue.” (p24)

“Despite the obvious ongoing comparisons between esports and more traditional sports, there are several spheres where esports stakeholders may benefit from taking a different governance path. Doping policy may also be a means for esports to chart a new path forward, and test the efficacy of a policy whereby substances where the benefits surpass the harms are evaluated based on the achievement of internal goods and are not included within the purview of doping policy.” (p27)

“The medically documented relationship between video-game use and the potential benefits for individuals with ADD and ADHD symptoms should continue to be explored. Policies that over-regulate medically beneficial and widely used stimulants risk harming the participation rates of not only the professional ranks (which may necessitate a separate conversation), but also the amateur ranks.” (p28)

Our Take on it

Should Esports follow the same doping rules as other sports? These authors say no – the context (practice) is very different from traditional sports and esports authorities should recognise the internal benefits (goods) that come from participation and the use of ‘legitimate’ drugs as an aid to this. That is not to say that there aren’t some moral concerns with the recent growth of esports, particularly in relation to corruption and the perils of commercialisation, but simply applying the traditional rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is not going to address these issues. An interesting paper that highlights some key differences between traditional sports and esports, although one that lacks explicit detail on what the internal goods of esports actually are – Dr Emily Ryall

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