The Esports Integrity Coalition released the first of two reports on its investigation into the use of an exploit that allowed Counter-Strike: Global Offensive coaches to gain a competitive advantage in professional matches.
Almost a month after referees Steve Dudenhoeffer and Michal Slowinski released news of the exploit to the public, the ESIC has released its initial results from its investigation. The first part of the Coalition's report named 37 coaches that the ESIC, in cooperation with Dudenhoeffer and Slowinski, found to have used the exploit. The ESIC's punishments technically only apply to tournament organizers that are members of the ESIC including ESL, WePlay!, DreamHack, and BLAST. Despite the limited application, the Coalition urged those organizers who aren't under its umbrella to uphold the sanctions for consistancy across the CSGO landscape.
The ESIC announcement also revealed that there will likely be more coaches added to the list. As of Monday, September 28, the Coalition has only complete investigations of around 20% of the demos it ultimately plans to review.
ESIC's punishments for CSGO coaching bug announced
The ESIC allowed for a one-month grace period for coaches who wished to own up to using the exploit, promising it would grant leniency to those who chose to do so. There were four different types of penalty reductions that could be granted to a coach depending on how and when the coach "confessed" and whether ESIC Commissioner Ian Smith found their confessions met certain criteria:
1. Confession Prior to Announcement of Investigation: 40% reduction in penalty
2. Confessions Accepted In Full: 25% reduction in penalty
3. Confession Accepted (Partially): 12.50% reduction in penalty
4. Confession Rejected: 0% reduction in penalty
5. Assistance in Investigation: 20% reduction in penalty
All 37 coaches, along with their organizations, listed on the ESIC's report will now be on the honor system under the current terms originally released in the ESIC's September 2nd announcement. That release penalized three coaches, MIBR's Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia, Heroic's Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen, and Hard Legion's Aleksandr "MechanoGun" Bogatyrev, for the exploit before laying out what the ban meant for both the coaches and their organizations.
"A ban in this context means that an individual may not work in any capacity, be accredited for, provide services to, attend or otherwise be involved in any ESIC member organizations’ activities, events, tournaments or matches, including providing services in any capacity to any participating team or player in any relevant event," read the announcement.
ESIC clarifies coaching bans as Valve remains quiet
Initially, the ESIC sanctioned the original three at Level 4, the most serious punishment available under the ESIC's Code of Conduct. It then made the situation even more complicated by adding what the bans meant in the current context of CSGO's online tournaments.
Despite previously informing teams that the ban meant a complete and total separation between coach and organization, it listed less-restrictive limits that seemed to allow coaches to remain with the team in an official capacity, limited by the factors below.
- must not actively or passively communicate with the team starting 15 minutes prior to the official match start up until the end of the match
- must not be physically present around the team starting 15 minutes prior to the official match start up until the end of the match
- must not be on the game server during official matches
- must not be on the official match channel on the Discord server
- must not be part of the official map veto process nor be in communication with the team during this process
After the investigation, the ESIC sanctions range from the harshest at Tier 1 to a slap on the wrist at Tier 4. The majority of sanctions were listed as Tier 2, while only three fell under the ESIC's Tier 3 category. The ESIC handed down its harshest punishments to Tricked's Allan "Rejin" Petersen, iGame's Slaava "Twista" Räsänen, and Mechanogun, finding that the three had intentionally used the exploit on hundreds of occasions. As for HUNDEN and dead, the ESIC reduced both punishments to a Tier 2 classification.
Note: The ESIC's Code of Conduct and today's documents differ in which Tier is the harshest and which is the most lenient. In the Code of Conduct, Tier 1 meant that a player was minorly penalized with Tier 4 infractions acting as the harshest. WIN.gg has reached out to the ESIC for clarification but has not received a response.
Coaching bug ban is a major moment in CSGO esports
Valve has not publicly commented on the situation since a blog post on September 9, saying that the teams of any coaches who used the bug during 2020's Regional Ranking tournament circuit would have its tournament points reset, severely damaging a team's chances of qualifying for the next CSGO Major. As for the coaches, Valve took what some in the community called an easy out, announcing it would wait and see what third-party investigations uncovered. In other words, Valve implied that it was the community's issue to resolve before it will get involved.
With almost all of 2020's Regional Ranking tournaments organized by ESIC members, it's possible that Valve won't take any action at all. In fact, there is even a possibility Valve limits RMR tournaments to organizers that adopt the ESIC's rulings, regardless of membership.
But while the ESIC says that it is sure that all of the coaches listed triggered the exploit on purpose, some coaches are already calling foul. Several coaches, including Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström, Sergey "lmbt" Bezhanov, and Alessandro "Apoka" Marcucci, have all claimed innocence or entirely denied triggering the bug on purpose.
Regardless of the innocence or guilt of individual coaches, CSGO's coaching exploit controversy ultimately affects the game's most passionate fans the most. They tune in for the excitement of high-level esports action, not to wonder whether or not their team is legit.
Today's report, coupled with what feels like apathy from Valve regarding the situation, tarnishes CSGO esports as a whole.