On the 31st of August, three coaches of major professional teams were handed out lengthy bans from ESL due to exploiting a glitch in the game which gave them an unfair advantage. The bug, known just as the “coach bug”, was a random glitch that allowed in-game coaches to lock their camera view at any point on the map and move their mouse freely, thus gaining a lot of info otherwise unknown to the players.
The bug, which had been in the game for months, was made public knowledge the week before when Wisla Krakow’s coach “Loord” announced his discovery in a Twitlonger. It has since been discussed that the bug has been in the game for up to two years prior. It was subsequently patched by Valve, and as of the 2nd of September all coach bugs are reported to be patched.
Abuse of the bug is detectable when reviewing GOTV-demos from games in which the bug occurred. Veteran Counter-Strike coach Michal “michau” Slowinski assisted ESL in their ruling after reviewing 1500 demos of tier 1 events. In his investigation, he found evidence of the following:
- dead, coach of MIBR, had used the bug on 1 round in 1 map versus YeaH Gaming in the North American division of ESL One: Road to Rio.
- HUNDEN, coach of Heroic, had used the bug on 10 rounds on 1 map versus Astralis in the European division of Dreamhack Masters Summer.
- zoneR, coach of Hard Legion, had used the bug on 6 maps in 3 series during the CIS division of ESL One: Road to Rio.
For this, dead was given a 6-month ban from ESL events, HUNDEN was given a 12-month ban and zoneR was given a 24-month ban. These three bans were echoed by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC), and thus apply to all ESIC-member organisations. michau has since moved on to reviewing demos from lower tiered tournaments, such as Malta Vibes, and uncovered more evidence of cheating. Among these, AKIMOV and Solaar, coaches of Hard Legion and K23 respectively, were named as culprits. More bans are expected to be handed out soon.
Heroic were the first organisation to comment on the situation, investigating the accusations internally, and subsequently removing HUNDEN from the position as coach of the team following his own admission of guilt. Hard Legion followed shortly, removing zoneR from the role of coach effective immediately. MIBR also started their own internal investigation, and have suspended dead for the duration of the investigation. Neither Heroic nor MIBR have named any coaches as replacements, despite currently playing in EPL Season 12 and Malta Vibes 10 respectively.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding player involvement, and if the teams and players deserve their own ban for being complicit. ESIC addressed this in their own statement, saying there is insufficient evidence indicating the players knew about the abuse, and thus any team punishment is not warranted.
EDIT: Since the publishing of this article, Solaar has been suspended from the K23 organisation.