Long road ahead. ESL refuses to be transparent about their Anti-Doping guideline.

December 23, 2015

This is a follow-up on the post I wrote August 13th, 2015.

It’s now a year and four months since I went public about the doping problem in eSports. A lot has changed. There are active discussions around the topic. Some organizations have established a working relationship with WADA to implement testing procedures.

And some companies, the prime example here would be Riot Games still choose to just ignore the problem and hope the media attention surrounding it will go away eventually.

It was a good year for me personally. Despite getting told by a few companies that I’ve been consulting in the past that they are not able to work with me anymore, because they got pressured into choosing to keep a working relationship with me or a particular organization I was accusing of being ignorant of the doping problem, I was able to sell my shares in the export management business I was running with my business partner for the past three years to a private group of investors.

Being unemployed comes with the advantage that I finally get the chance to spend more time learning new things and doing things I always wanted to do. One of those things was following up with the ESL on the catalog of questions I sent about four months ago.

Turns out the ESL is not interested in transparency or keeping promises they make.

But let’s start at the beginning.

On August 13th, I wrote a mail to the Head of Communications at ESL, Anna Rozwandowicz, who replied to me rather swiftly.

To keep the chain of communication and timeline as transparent as possible, I’ll publish the original emails and only redact contact information and the name of a person I have mentioned that is not directly involved with the ESL anymore.

Please click the screenshots to get a full-size and better readable version in case you can’t see or read them correctly on your screen size.

ESL Mail One


My reply in English.


ESL Mail One

As you can see, I’m giving her a catalog of questions, specifically:


  • What specific oral fluid test is going to be used at ESL One Cologne?
    Especially interesting for me is the Brand and the cut-off parameters of the test if you have these specifications. Otherwise, the Brand name is sufficient, so I can get the specifications by calling the manufacturer myself.


  • When did the ESL inform the Teams / Players that are participating in ESL One Cologne about the details you recently published?


  • Did you provide Teams / Players with behavior policy guidelines related to the saliva tests? For example do they know that they should avoid to eat certain foods or should stay away from passive smoking cannabis because saliva tests can create FP’s (false positives) under certain conditions where a player not actively took a substance himself but still tests positive.


  • Who is going to test players on the ESL One Cologne event? WADA / NADA Inspectors, your admin staff or specially trained external personal?


  • What happens if a player makes use of his right to deny a saliva test because of it’s accuracy problems compared to blood testing?


  • Besides the announced randomized testing during the event, are there guaranteed testings planned for the winners (Place 1 to X)?


  • Do you know of any teams/players invited/qualified to ESL One Cologne who informed ESL that they will not be able to participate in the event for any reason?


  • You answered the question what happens if a player is tested positive with that the ESL has penalties reaching from cutting prize money / point penalties to a ban from all ESL Tournaments for two years. Why the different penalties? Does the ESL value substance abuse of certain substances higher or lower than others?


  • In the eyes of the ESL shouldn’t any misuse of a substance listed on the WADA Prohibition list without having valid medical reasons to use said substance be the foundation of a lifetime / permanent Tournament ban without excuse?


  • As far as I could understand from your announcement, the ESL guarantees players guilty of Doping privacy but in the previous years, the ESL didn’t shy back from publicly announcing cheating cases related to software cheating on your website with the full name of the Cheater, guaranteeing a certain transparency in the process. So my question is how does the ESL ensure transparency around possible substance abuse in your Tournaments? Will doping be handled with the same transparency as software cheating at ESL?


  • In Germany, a saliva test is not classified as valid evidence in front of a court without the following blood test that confirms the substance abuse. Is the ESL planning to reinforce a positive saliva test (if it happens at all) with a blood test at the venue? And if not how are penalties going to stick if players / organizations sue against a decision if you have no legal ground / evidence to back your decision up?


On September 27th, when I still had no answers back I sent a follow-up to remind Anna that I was still waiting for the answers.


ESL Mail 3


Well, you can guess that I didn’t get a mail back from Ms. Rozwandowicz. So on December 3rd, I gave her a final window of opportunity to answer my questions because I had set myself a deadline that I wouldn’t wait for another two or three months for questions the ESL told me “they’d be happy to answer.”


ESL Mail 4


Someone got tremendously butthurt over this. On December 9th, I got the following reply cc’ing the ESL’s managing director.


ESL Mail 4

First of all, if there is one thing I’m allergic to besides cats and that is being lied directly to my face. But I’ll come to that later.

I spend an hour reading through my previous emails and couldn’t see how I was “rather unprofessional.” English is not my mother tongue, so I thought maybe there has been some miscommunication. But it turns out that being unprofessional for the Head of Communication at ESL means that they see openly telling them that you will provide transparency and publish the Emails you have been exchanging publicly as a threat instead of saying go ahead, and on top of that here are the answers to your questions I have still not answered.

I have to say I have past bad experiences with the ESL and the way they communicate, which I will show in my next mail. But ultimately being someone that worked in Marketing & PR for a long time I think that every bit of communication counts. I was never afraid to answer questions and criticism that ABIT’s users had. You didn’t need to be a reporter for the New York Times or in the Management at Intel to pick up the phone and talk to me. If your job is communication, then communicating is what you should do.

But before I go on longer about this here is my reply.

ESL Mail 6


To my surprise, the next mail didn’t come from Ms. Rozwandowicz anymore but from the ESL’s managing director Ralf Reichert, who I met two times briefly before and had the impression that he does care about what’s going on in his shop.

ESL Mail 7


This was a rather sad moment. I had hopes that Ralf is either interested to talk in person ( remember I offered to come all the way from Mexico to have a video/audio interview with him on the topic in January) , interested in why vital Mails to his employees don’t seem to be arriving or, at least, be happy to show that the ESL is indeed transparent and open in the communications about their anti-doping policy.

Let`s say I was disappointed at least.

I want you to keep in mind “the day has only 24 hours, and we need to use it as efficiently as possible”.

For the ESL’s communications department this looks like this.

ESL Anti Doping Meeting

Because I promised transparency about the whole conversation, I’ll add my reply to Ralf as well.

ESL Mail 8

Needless to say that I never got any reply back, or any of those questions answered. Now, about the lying to me part. As said, during my professional career I had this same excuse presented to me a few times.  That’s why I usually send unique links with the mail to identify if it has been opened by someone as tracking pixels are not working by default with solutions like Google mail, where the ESL is having its mail services.

Because it’s important to me that my emails actually arrive and I honestly never had any emails not arriving as long as I work with Zoho Mail (since 2006) it makes me angry if people lie to me instead of telling me “Hey sorry I just forgot about you, but I’ll promise to get back to you within X days”.

At least, from my end, I have proof that the mail arrived. And I also checked Google Mail didn’t have any downtime at Sep 27th 2015.


ESL Mail Zoho Reply

It’s your turn. ESL.

Bjoern Franzen

Personal blog of Bjoern Franzen
Marketer, eSport consultant and Developer

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