Major esports pro league ESL has imposed bans ranging from six months to two years on coaches from CS:GO teams Hard Legion, Heroic, and MIRB, who it says took advantage of a bug that let them spectate from anywhere on the map without the opposing team (or anyone else) knowing.
ESL didn't explain exactly how the bug worked, saying only that it could be enabled "by taking a combination of different steps." The coaches allegedly used the bug to relay information they shouldn't have had back to their players. That's a very obvious contravention of ESL's rules, specifically section 6.10.5, "Use of Bugs and Glitches," which states:
The intentional use of any bugs, glitches, or errors in the game is forbidden. It is up to the admin’s discretion whether or not the use of said bugs had an effect on the match, and whether or not he will award rounds, or the match to the opposing team, or to force a rematch. The usage of the following bugs is strictly forbidden, if any bug is used which is not listed here it is up to the admin’s discretion whether or not a punishment is necessary.
ESL said that after closely analyzing relevant ESL and Dreamhack matches and consulting with Valve to "solidify" its findings, it has confirmed that coaches MechanoGun of Hard Legion, Hunden of Heroic, and dead of MIBR each took advantage of the glitch:
- Aleksandr "MechanoGun" Bogatiryev of Hard Legion: ESL One Road to Rio, on 6 maps in 3 matches
- Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen of Heroic: DreamHack Masters Spring, in 10 rounds on 1 map
- Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia of MIBR: ESL One Road to Rio, in 1 round on 1 map
As a result, dead has been handed a six-month suspension from playing or coaching in competition, Hunden was given a one-year suspension, and MechanoGun will be banned for two years. All three teams (Hard Legion, Heroic, and MIBR) have been retroactively disqualified from the tournaments, and they will forfeit any ESL Pro Tour points and prize money earned from them.
"The individual teams have been contacted and informed. We have also notified other tournament organizers of this and will help them investigate the matches on their end," ESL said. "ESIC will be issuing separate sanctions with a statement in due course under the ESIC Player Code of Conduct, which was applied at our tournaments and has been breached by these coaches. ESIC sanctions apply to all ESIC Member events, and apply further than our sanctions which apply only to DreamHack and ESL tournaments and leagues.
"As part of this announcement, we consider it also important to note that multiple coaches other than those mentioned in this post have encountered the bug. They did not abuse it in any way."
ESIC, the Esports Integrity Coalition, was established in 2016 as a multi-league body dedicated to combating cheating in esports. Its membership has grown since then to include ESL, Dreamhack, Blast Pro Series, LVP/Fandroid, and several other tournament operators.
Following the suspensions, MIBR posted a message on Twitter saying that it will investigate the claims, and that it has suspended dead effectively immediately, pending the outcome of that investigation.
pic.twitter.com/D2boLARMkFAugust 31, 2020
Heroic said on its website that it has been made aware of the allegations and suspension as well, and has begun an internal investigation of its own. It's not commenting further while that unfolds, but promised that "all questions will be answered at a later point."
Update: Hard Legion has issued a statement saying that after conducting its own investigation, it has concluded that ESL's decision was fair, and it will not appeal. It defended its players, however, saying that it does not believe they were aware of the cheating and "continued to play fair" despite coach Bogatyrev's efforts to drop hints during the match. Bogatyrev has also been dismissed as team coach.
The Esports Integrity Coalition has also concluded that it is "beyond doubt" that the coaches in question took advantage of the spectator bug, and as a result has imposed sanctions of its own. The suspensions are the same duration as those given by ESL, but across a wider range of competitive leagues. ESIC also requested that non-member tournament organizers honor the bans, "for the purpose of protecting the CS:GO esports scene internationally."
"As of the date of this statement, ESIC is of the view that there is insufficient evidence available to determine with any certainty that any players knew or were complicit in the behaviour of the coaches," it said in a statement. "However, for completeness, ESIC will hold this investigation open for a further two months from the date of this statement pending any further evidence arising which would provide a basis for further investigation on this issue."
Anyone with information pertinent to the investigation is asked to contact ESIC at firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line ESICS310820. All communications regarding the matter will be kept confidential.