ESIC apply minor sanction to niko in complicity of HUNDEN coaching bug abuse; clear Heroic quartet
The esports watchdog has handed Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen a light disciplinary punishment pertaining to his complicity in Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen's cheating exploits after exceptional circumstances were factored in.
The result of the month-long investigation issues only minor sanctions to niko, who received a lenient sentence as a result of an admission of guilt in combination with exceptional and special circumstances, which involved HUNDEN manipulating the player's trust with the knowledge that certain medical conditions affect his judgement, making him heavily dependent on those he trusts around him.
The quartet of Casper "cadiaN" Møller, René "TeSeS" Madsen, Johannes "b0RUP" Borup, and Martin "stavn" Lund were found to have "no case to answer for" as there was insufficient evidence to reasonably conclude their guilt under ESIC's Integrity Program. Notably, HUNDEN did not include b0RUP in his allegations whatsoever.
The esports watchdog parsed through information submitted by HUNDEN — including, but not limited to, a written statement, an anonymous witness, screenshots of messenger conversations, and a voice recording of a conversation with niko — as well as conducted a review of evidence in detail with each of the involved parties, including Heroic staff.
While ESIC found there to be insufficient evidence to find the above mentioned quartet guilty, niko admitted his culpability in the situation, and accepted a plea bargain arrangement with ESIC that will have him receive:
1. A severe public reprimand for his behaviour
2. A warning as to future conduct with severe consequences for any future breach of the ESIC Integrity Program
3. Mandatory attendance at two one on one education sessions with the ESIC Commissioner of minimum 30 mins duration each
4. A minimum 15-minute check in with the Commissioner every month for a minimum of six months to ensure he has understood and is complying with the ESIC Integrity Program and to offer him support for any issues he might be having in this respect
A failure to abide by any of the above conditions will result in niko receiving a 30-day ban, at minimum, from ESIC member events.
The exceptional circumstances that led to the lenient punishment, as detailed by ESIC, revealed that niko has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Asperger's Syndrome, which ESIC was informed would "significantly impact his ability to know right from wrong, make values-based decisions on his own, and communicate effectively in a conventional way."
As a result of the two medical conditions, niko was heavily reliant on people he trusts, with HUNDEN being one such person, having been a mentor and teammate of his on multiple occasions. ESIC found that HUNDEN deliberately fostered and exploited niko's trust at a timing that was convenient to him, with niko willingly going along with HUNDEN's proposals without a full understanding as to the implications.
According to ESIC, the 23-year-old was made to believe that the exploitation of the bug was no big deal, humorous, and that all of his teammates at the time must know of it and be complicit in the same way.
The report goes on to explain how almost all knowledge of the spectator bug's existence among the players came from HUNDEN himself, lightly and in a joking manner through conversation.
The manner in which it was lightly touched upon, via casual banter and in a strategic manner, is compared to the tactics a matchfixer would use in gauging their peer's opinions regarding their corrupt behavior and their willingness to be complicit in it, and one that can be played off in case of any push back.
Regarding the allegation that TeSeS boosted HUNDEN into a specific position in a match against Spirit, ESIC found that there was no evidence that pointed towards TeSeS having any knowledge of what HUNDEN's purpose behind the boosts were, making it a hearsay argument between the two parties.
The absence of objective evidence led to ESIC needing to make a decision between which witness their believed, with the watchdog group stating that they had not identified any evidence that indicated TeSeS believed HUNDEN's requests to join the server 20 minutes early were abnormal, nor that he was aware of any specific intention behind the instruction.
One final assertion made by ESIC indicates that three of the players may have found out that the bug had been used following the team's match against Astralis as there is evidence of a post-game TeamSpeak conversation between cadiaN, niko, stavn, and HUNDEN, where niko states that HUNDEN had revealed to him in a message that he was in the bug.
Despite remaining skeptical due to the loss, an unfamiliarity with niko regarding serious situations of this manner, and there being no obvious instances pointing to HUNDEN's use of the bug, cadiaN and stavn made "a clear stand against cheating."
However, the situation was never escalated to Heroic, allowing the situation to be easily glossed over — something which ESIC condemns the players for. Commissioner Ian Smith found this specific instance to not be enough to sustain charges in complicity towards any of the other players though, outside of niko's admission of guilt.
“I expected a flood of 'evidence' of other teams’ players being complicit in their coaches cheating with the coach bug, but this has not happened," Mr. Smith said in his closing remarks. "I believe I have explained why I think this is: that the players did not need to know, but I also accept that there were players that, like niko, did know and should have come forward, but didn’t.
"I hope this changes in future as people know that ESIC will investigate fairly and sympathetically in the best interests of esports. Competitive integrity is key to the sustainability and increased commerciality of professional elite esports. If people lose faith in the product, it is the players that will suffer most and I hope all players accept that we are all in this together and that ESIC is here to protect them.”