Galaxy Battles, a tournament that was supposed to a part of Valve’s new approach to tournaments leading up to The International this year, has lost its official Valve backing.
“Based on information we’ve recently confirmed regarding new government regulations for esports players entering the Philippines,” Valve said on its blog, “we have decided to rescind the tournament’s Major designation, including the Pro Circuit qualifying points, for the Galaxy Battles 2018 tournament.” In the post, Valve cites “unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players, as a condition to enter the country,” as the reason it is backing out of the tournament.
Compete reports these “unreasonable infringements” include drug tests. “Players were going to be subjected to drug testing and screening as part of a government policy in order to enter the country for that event,” a Valve representative told Compete. “Given the local climate, we felt it best to pull back our involvement.” Under a recent (as of July of last year) law from the Philippines’ Game and Amusements board, all esports athletes are required to submit drug screenings for marijuana and crystal meth. “Without the proper and accurate information, international organizers and stakeholders may question this aspect of our regulation, and thus may hesitate planning for Philippine events,” the board said in a statement acquired by ESPN freelancer Pao Bago. “We can only hope that all stakeholders will appreciate drug testing as an undeniable part of professional sports in the Philippines and the world.”
The tournament is currently still planned for its January 15 start date, though it will no longer be a part of Valve’s Dota Pro Circuit, which means participating teams will no longer earn points that could grant them a direct invite to The International in August. Due to this change, 4 of the 16 qualified teams have withdrawn from the tournament, including current International champions Team Liquid, as well as major competitors Team Secret, Virtus Pro, and Optic Gaming. Whether Fallout Gaming and Purpose Win, the organizers behind the event, will replace those teams before the event starts, remains to be seen.
Those teams haven’t lost their chance to earn Pro Circuit Points, however. Valve is currently “talking to tournament organizers to try to find a way to run a Major with the invited and qualifying teams, including the Pro Circuit points that would have been available in Galaxy Battles 2018,” the company said in its blog post.
I understand esports is in a different world than traditional sports (which drug tests regularly), but I’m not sure I see the harm in doing a drug test, personally (Update: as readers have pointed out, Valve is likely weary of drug tests due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent efforts to curb drug use and sales through stringent and often deadly means). And even if it is invasive, why wait until a week and change before the event to drop the tournament? I’m sure there were conversations Between Valve and the tournament ahead of the loss of Major status, but this still leaves lots of people on the teams, production, and more in the lurch on short notice.