Why Did This Pro Video Gaming League Ban Cannabis?

Published on August 24, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Drug policies are nothing new in the world of professional sports. Last year we highlighted the NFL’s changes to its cannabis policy and how the organization is facing increased pressure to allow its players to use medical marijuana. While one of America's most beloved sports is starting to consider easing up on its drug restrictions, a sport you might least expect to ban cannabis has done just that.

Last week, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) issued its “anti-doping policy,” which includes a comprehensive list of banned substances. Although the policy was prompted by certain players using Adderall as a performance-enhancing drug, cannabis was also banned.

ESL’s head of communications Anna Rozwandowicz commented in a post on Reddit that marijuana is banned during the competition, but players are allowed to consume outside (before) event days. Compliance will be enforced by using swab tests which will be randomly administered throughout the competition. If a player fails his or her test, s/he could be subject to loss of prize money, disqualification, or outright ban from all ESL events.

While I support the league working to limit the use of performance-enhancing drugs, I'm concerned about how this policy could affect patients. If a player is a registered patient in a medical cannabis state, this could prohibit him or her from accessing the medication needed during the competition. The league makes no distinction between CBD-only and high-THC strains, and doesn’t account for medical need in their policy.

It's great to see the ESL advancing the sport of electronic gaming, but I hope they’ll revisit their cannabis policy to ensure it accounts for the well-being of all players, including medical cannabis patients.

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Sara Dilley
Sara Dilley
Sara is a photographer and photo editor.
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