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Counter-Strike world rocked by professional players cheating scandal

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Last night an influx of threads on HLTV.org revealed a number of players who had received VAC (Valve Anti-cheating) bans on their steam profiles. What happened next was a witch hunt of sorts as more players were outed and fans began raising their suspicions. The question on everyone's mind is what action tournament organizers, of past and present, will take regarding this heartbreaking news, most notably Dreamhack Winter, set to kick off next week.

The first player to outed was  Simon "smn" Beck, a German player from team ALTERNATE. The German player admitted to cheating after receiving a VAC ban on his Steam profile for apparently using illegal assistance on the popular match making system, ESEA. Smn, not willing to go down alone, released a list of players who he stated used these cheats, both online and on LAN, as well. In the list were some top names of players in the best teams in the world. The rumours began to spread like wildfire and soon the saga was dubbed Operation VACation, after Valve's popular Operation missions in CS:GO.

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In an HLTV.org blog ESEA co-founder Eric "Ipkane" Thunberg stated that it was due to the ESEA's efforts that these recent VAC bans have occured. The post reads:

"Earlier in the week, ALTERNATE's Simon "smn" Beck was banned on ESEA for a year for cheating, with the German player then revealing on Facebook that there were more professional players out there resorting to the same kind of tools he had been using.

After rumours about professional players cheating online and even on LAN began to spread like wildfire, it did not take long for Valve to get in touch with ESEA to learn what could be done to stop this new workshop cheat."


A statement released by Thunberg promises they are not stopping there:

"We independently banned a high profile cheater, a german player, then worked with valve and shared our specific technique so that more pro players would get banned," he wrote on ESEA's forum.

"The results are starting to roll out with vac bans tonight, more to come soon."

The Unusual Suspects

The names released are what's really causing the uproar. The list is quite shocking, so take a seat.

  • pyth - Team Orbit
  • olofmeister -  Fnatic
  • krimz -  Fnatic
  • rallen - ESC
  • KQLY - Titan
  • Kioshima - LDLC
  • Apex - Titan
  • JW -  Fnatic
  • Virtus.pro (dont know exactly which players from VP)
  • Several German players which smn wishes not to name as they are friends.

What's most alarming here is three of the mentioned players are from Fnatic. Fnatic are currently ranked first in the world, and one of the players mentioned, JW, has been stated as being one of the best CS:GO players to date. Alongside the witch hunt comes a few frag videos of the above mentioned players pulling of some insane rounds, now under harsh suspicion.

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some people feel JW might be next

This video is from Fnatic's JW making an amazing play to Ace (kill all 5) Titan on Inferno during the Dreamhack Stockholm invitational.

 

What was originally seen as one of the most amazing rounds during the tournament, is now surrounded with controversy. JW hasn't been proven to cheat yet, but this video just serves as an example of the type of videos being circulated at the moment during this witch hunt.

Action being taken

So far two professional French players have received VAC bans. Hovic "KQLY" Tovmassian (in the above), who plays for popular French team Titan, received a VAC ban earlier today, which in turn saw his team removed from Dreamhack winter. He hasn't released a response just yet, but a statement from Titan's Facebook page bears the bad news.

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"Dear Fans,

As of today 19:00 CET, we regret to inform you that we were forced to temporarily suspend Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian from our active CS:GO roster.

Upon logging onto Titan’s usual scrim server, while at the training house and while using a recently formatted PC, KQLY got VAC banned and can therefor not train or practice with his official account.

We are currently in contact with Valve in order to investigate what might have caused this and we will keep you informed as the situation develops.

Stay tuned!"

Players have been known to receive VAC bans in the past for various reasons, a full investigation is exactly what is needed at the moment. KQLY is an extremely talented player, so this comes a big surprise to CS:GO fans across the globe.

A second confirmed VAC ban from Valve is on Gordon "Sf" Giry from Epsilon, another French team. Neither Sf or Epsilon have released statements regarding these allegations, so all we can do is wait and see what is really going on.

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An investigation carried out by some community members on HLTV.org involves checking inventories of players mentioned in Operation VACation. While this doesn't prove much, it does weed out guilty parties. A VAC ban locks your Steam inventory, or more specifically your CS:GO inventory. Why does this matter? A lot of professional players have cosmetic skins for the guns (which change the look of the gun in game) worth thousands of dollars. The community feel if they empty their backpacks by trading to friends that this is a clear sign of guilt. It's all just theories now.

A second investigation is that of posting videos of "questionable moments", as I posted above, where mentioned parties may be using cheats. With the knowledge of these confirmed VAC bans, videos like this leave no doubt in the minds of some.

 

With some players earning large amounts of money from competitions this year alone, it will be interesting to see what actions will be taken to reprimand these actions. KQLY alone has acquired more than $80,000 from competitions, that and the money from sponsors will most definitely have to be paid back. Other players who have made money from Streaming their games to Twitch, well that's a different story. Prepare yourselves.

Dreamhack respond

In quick succession Dreamhack have disqualified both Titan and Epsilon following the allegations. Rumours are circulating that some of these cheats may have been use on LAN as well, so this comes as no surprise. Following the banning of the two teams, Dreamhack have opened up a Last Call Qualifier this weekend, stating this:

"A special Last Call LAN Qualifier will be organised to determine the last slots in the CS:GO Major Tournament at DreamHack Winter 2014

The qualifier will be held in Stockholm, Sweden on Saturday, 22nd of November to replace Titan and Epsilon in the tournament.

Earlier today the CS:GO community learned that a Titan player and an Epsilon player were VAC banned. This has been confirmed and, as a result of the team members’ actions, Titan and Epsilon’s places in the tournament were revoked. As a result, the Last Call Qualifier was designed to fill those spots in the tournament.

Since this is very last minute, Valve will help fund the travel and accommodation expenses for the attending qualifier teams. Four top European teams will be invited to play for entry into the tournament."


This gives a great opportunity for up and coming European teams and I honestly can't wait for the event as South Africa's Bravado Gaming will be attending. After this weekend I feel we will hear a bit more about this hacking saga.

Closing

This is seriously going to put a damper on professional Counter-Strike. Teams have already been suspending players and it's only a matter of time before more players are outed. If these allegations are true the entire competitive scene is going to change. The players who most have held in high esteem are almost all being brought into question. Cheating/hacking in competitive Counter-Strike can be seen almost as doping in conventional sports. We all know the story of 7 time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong who was outed for blood doping a few years ago. The impact of this "Operation Vacation" will be one of the biggest in the history of eSports. I'm praying more prominent players are innocent.

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