The bans came as a result of an investigation by the Uprise Champions Cup (UCC), the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) and sports data and monitoring company Sportradar.
More on the Dota 2 bans
According to a release from the ESIC, Leonid “Sonic” Kuzmenkov and Dmitri “Ax.Mo” Morozov received bans after their play in the World Cyber Arena (WCA) European Qualifiers for the CIS region. (The UCC organized the event, hence its involvement.)
According to the ESIC, the investigation came “following rumours and concerns” about a Dota 2 match involving the two players against the team Yellow Submarine. Sportradar Integrity Services undertook the investigation, using its data on global patterns on the match.
Further details on the investigation were not made available. However, the ban implies that the ESIC and Sportradar concluded the two players sought to influence the match in some way, for betting purposes.
“It is always depressing to see young esports athletes succumb to the temptations that matchfixing presents,” ESIC Commissioner Ian Smith said in speaking about the decision. “But I remain hopeful that this decision will send a powerful deterrent message to esports athletes across the various titles and tournaments – that ESIC are more than happy to follow up questions and concerns around matches, even when those matches do not fall under our existing coverage partnerships.”
“Sportradar’s fully tailored Fraud Detection System was on hand to help us get to the bottom of the betting patterns globally and off the back of that, we have been able to underline our commitment to clean and credible esports.”
Monitoring is working in esports
Even though the event in question was not necessarily a major one, it shows that monitoring of esports betting patterns should be a deterrent for match fixing moving forward.
The more prizes there are for an esports event, the less tempting it should be, in theory, to attempt to fix a match. Risking a long-term ban for the short-term “reward” of money from a fixed match should increasingly make less sense for even lower-level pros, if they know they’ll get caught.
“We have worked with Ian and his team for a few years now, focusing on prevention and education to help ensure players and their entourages can avoid the pitfalls that fixers put around them,” James Watson, head of esports at Sportradar said in the release. “But sometimes it is our monitoring and detection expertise that is called upon, as it was here.
As a keen and committed member of the esports community, I am grateful that, together with my team at Sportradar and with ESIC, we can work with UCC to send a clear message to fixers and the wider community about how seriously we all take this issue.”
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Not a lifetime ban?
Fixing a match is generally a serious violation in any sport. And in many traditional sports, it could (or likely would) result in a lifetime ban.
But the ESIC and ESL recently came to the conclusion that lifetime bans for activities such as cheating were “inappropriate.” That apparently extends to attempting to fix matches.
It brings up the question if a two-year ban is enough, although second transgressions would likely result in a lifetime ban. Still, being cut out of playing an esport for two years is a huge dent in a player’s career as it is. And being caught should discourage them from ever trying it again, should they return to the competitive scene.