ESIC to release more findings from spectator bug investigation “in the next few weeks”
The esports watchdog group was supposed to publish the final document before the end of October.
The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) has said that it will take some time before the final batch of findings from the wide-ranging investigation into the use of the spectator bug in competitive Counter-Strike can be released. Contacted by HLTV.org, the esports watchdog group explained that “unforeseen complexities” that arose during the second portion of the inquiry made it impossible to complete the report before the end of October as it had initially planned.
“ESIC is currently finalising part two of the spectator bug investigation and is aiming to publish its results in the next few weeks,” the organisation said. “ESIC appreciates the CSGO community’s patience while we complete the necessary work in a prudent and comprehensive manner.”
ESIC formally launched a historical investigation into the exploitation of the bug on September 4, several days after the scandal had been brought to light. The spectator bug, which had existed in the game since at least 2015, allowed coaches to be locked in a position on a map and to observe opponents’ movements in real-time without being detected.
Later that month, ESIC announced that it had handed out bans ranging from 3.75 to 36 months to 37 coaches for using the bug in a competitive environment. The list, which included high-profile names like Slaava "Twista" Räsänen, Nicholas "guerri" Nogueira, Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström, Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen and Allan "Rejin" Petersen, was merely provisional, but ESIC was confident that the demos that it had analysed up until that point — 20% of the 99,650 that it had available for review — "likely comprised the most substantial cases of abuse".
Some of the offending coaches have been relieved of their duties and will take a hiatus while the suspension is in force or walk away from the scene altogether. But for others, very little has changed: there are cases of banned coaches who have either remained in their jobs — only stepping aside when official matches are played in order to comply with ESIC's ruling — or have transitioned to a less prominent analyst role.
This has sparked outrage in some quarters in the community, but ESIC believes that this is now “more appropriately a matter for public scrutiny”, adding: “ESIC has issued bans in a proportional extent to the misconduct it has observed throughout its investigations. ESIC does not seek to interfere with organisational conduct outside of the bans that it has issued.”
The sanctions that were handed down by ESIC are in effect across the organisation’s members, which include ESL, DreamHack and BLAST. The esports watchdog group hopes that other tournament organisers will honour the bans for the sake of competitive integrity, but the lack of a unified regulatory voice in the Counter-Strike scene has created hurdles — and some teams have sought to exploit the situation. Only last month, Sergey "starix" Ischuk was spotted coaching Hard Legion in the first open qualifier for Flashpoint 2 — a tournament hosted by a non-ESIC member — despite serving a 10-month ban issued by ESIC.
Flashpoint commissioner Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles explained to HLTV.org that starix slipped through the cracks due to the lack of an automated system to detect banned coaches, but noted that the issue was resolved for the second open qualifier, in which the Ukrainian was removed from the team by FACEIT’s admins. He underlined that coaches who have been banned by ESIC will not be allowed to participate in Flashpoint 2 “in any role”, adding that Hard Legion “will likely” face additional penalties as a result of their actions.
“The reality is that, without a unified approach against cheating, match-fixing and other unwelcomed behaviour, esports remains susceptible to bad actors who seek to undermine the integrity of our industry,” ESIC said when questioned about Flashpoint’s stance. “It is therefore counterintuitive to the success of the industry to have a fragmented approach to competitive integrity. ESIC encourages and commends any non-member who honours our sanctions. We further encourage these non-members to consider entering a more detailed dialogue with ESIC regarding the unification of integrity efforts in esports.”
APPEALS WON’T UNDERMINE INVESTIGATION
ESIC’s procedures have been under scrutiny following Sergey "lmbt" Bezhanov’s successful appeal against his 7.5-month ban for four cases of bug use. The Ukrainian, who, like other banned coaches, complained about not being heard by ESIC before the initial findings were released, was able to prove his innocence after providing substantial evidence, including video footage.
When asked about the criticism aimed at its inquiry, ESIC played down the fact that one ban has already been overturned, saying that its review of lmbt’s case simply proves that the investigation is open and transparent.
“In our view, the availability of an appeals mechanism is not at all related to the seriousness of any particular investigation,” the commission said. “ESIC has no desire to be an autocratic dictator of the fate of esports participants. Therefore, the independent appeals process is vital to the overall purpose of ESIC. In providing an avenue for individuals to contest sanctions and prove innocence, ESIC is ensuring that due process is granted to any individual that ESIC has made a finding against.”