Cheating Scandal Rocks Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

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The world of eSports has been rocked recently with a cheating scandal that has seen 37 coaches banned from competition.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the top eSports titles, with over $100m awarded in prize money to date. That has led to some of the top eSports teams in the world getting involved with the game, such as FaZe Clan and Dignitas. Those same teams are amongst those that have exploited the so-called ‘spectator bug’, leading to the recent wave of bans. The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) announced bans totalling 86 years for coaches from across the eSports world.

“We understand that these revelations have been tough for many people within the CS: GO community,” wrote ESIC in the conclusion to their findings. “We believe it is in the long-term best interests of the game and all of esports for integrity breaches to be dealt with head-on.”

Those who exploited the system discovered a method by which they were able to view the whole map as a spectator, giving them vital information as to where opponents were. It led to a huge tactical advantage for many players, and some coaches seem to have got on board to stay competitive. Coaches from some very high-profile teams have been implicated in the scandal, including former FaZe Clan coach Robert ‘RobbaN’ Dahlström and Furia’s Nicholas ‘guerri’ Nogueira. All bans are currently eligible for appeal, with a final report on the issue expected in late October.

It is believed some of those guilty of cheating have been exploiting the bug for as long as four years, with the first evidence discovered in games that took place in 2016. It throws into doubt the integrity of eSports, certainly for the CS: GO titles, which is one of the most popular on the eSports circuit.

Heroic are one team that have had two coaches banned; Henrik ‘FeTiSh’ Christensen for three-and- three-quarter-months and Nicolai ‘HUNDEN’ Petersen for eight months, but that will not derail their push for prizes in the ESL Pro League Europe.

In their CS: GO market, Bwin Sports has Heroic as marginal favorites to defeat BIG in the ESL Pro League in early October, with business going on very much as usual for the Danish team. They had won four matches out of five heading into that encounter, perhaps proving the scandal is not going to have too much effect on the teams involved. HUNDEN was not involved in that encounter, but the team have chosen to stand by their coach, despite him using the hack during a few rounds of the Dreamhack Masters Malmö tournament in early 2020. His ban, reduced from 12 months, prevents him from taking part in competition, but he will work as an analyst for the team during his hiatus.

Some coaches have not received the same level of support from their teams. Alexander ‘MechanoGun’ Bogatyrev is perhaps the most high profile of them all. He was the head coach for Hard Legion, but was released from his contract following the announcement of his ban, totalling two years. Others have suffered the same fate and their actions have left an indelible mark on CS: GO, and on eSports itself.

The terms of the ESIC ban are that the banned coaches cannot communicate with their team 15 minutes before matches, nor be physically present during the same period. They cannot be on game servers during matches, nor on the official match channel on the discord server. They can remain part of their team, but simply cannot be involved in any capacity on game day.

Whether these measures are enough to repair the integrity of the game, and instill confidence back amongst those teams that did not cheat remains to be seen, but there is no doubt the measures taken are making a very firm statement to those tempted to find ways around the system, at all levels of eSport.