The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) handed out a two-year suspension today to the former head coach of Heroic’s CS:GO team, Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen, following an investigation into claims that he shared sensitive information from Heroic’s strategy folder with an opposing team ahead of IEM Cologne in July. The ban means HUNDEN can’t take part in any events organized by ESIC members, which includes major tournament organizers such as ESL, DreamHack, and BLAST.
The ESIC’s investigation included examining Google Drive access records, interviews with Heroic and the opposing team’s management, and examination of a forensic IT report produced by a forensic expert firm. The esports watchdog found out that HUNDEN was negotiating a move to the opposing team at the time when he tried to share Heroic’s files, but the name of the other team hasn’t been disclosed. That team is believed to be Astralis since HLTV reported in July that the four-time Major-winning organization had targeted HUNDEN to replace Danny “zonic” Sørensen in 2022. Dot Esports reached out to Astralis when the 30-year-old was released from Heroic in July following the aforementioned allegations, but Astralis chose to not comment on whether it was negotiating with HUNDEN.
The material HUNDEN shared, though, was not accessed by the recipient, ESL said at the time and the ESIC corroborated. But given that he was under contract with Heroic and tried to share sensitive information regarding the team’s stratbook with another IEM Cologne competitor who he was negotiating with, the ESIC concluded that HUNDEN did the following:
- “Created a threat to the integrity of an ESIC member event (irrespective of whether or not that threat materialised);
- Created a threat to the reputation of an ESIC member (irrespective of whether or not that threat materialised); and in doing so
- Threatened harm to the reputation and competitive integrity of esports, and ESIC’s member ESL.”
For the ESIC, HUNDEN’s admission on Twitter that he shared “anti-strat material of opponents” constitutes a “self-evident matter” and, in conjunction with its findings, concluded the Danish coach breached article 2.4.5 of its Code of Conduct. “The facts of the alleged incident are not adequately or clearly covered by any of the above offences, conduct that brings Esports, the Game, Event, ESIC or a Member into disrepute,” the article reads. HUNDEN started serving the ban yesterday, Aug. 25 and it will last until Aug. 24, 2023.
In an interview with Danish television network TV2.dk that aired yesterday, HUNDEN had already said that the ESIC was going to ban him for two years. The Danish coach also claimed that the ESIC had chosen to not hear his side of the story and threatened to ban him for five years if he appealed the verdict.
The ESIC said these claims are false and added that HUNDEN failed to provide it with “any reply of substance relevant to the charge made against him” multiple times, even though he was encouraged to do so. The esports watchdog said HUNDEN was offered a plea bargain in good faith, in accordance with the ESIC’s Code of Conduct, and that he remains free to contest the ruling to an independent appeal panel.
This is the second time the ESIC has banned HUNDEN in less than a year since he was one of the 37 coaches suspended last fall for abusing the spectator bug, which allowed coaches to place their in-game camera anywhere on the map and provide information to their teams. He was initially handed a 12-month suspension but the ESIC reduced it to eight months since he cooperated with the investigation.
HUNDEN said he acted on his own at the time and that the players were not aware that he was abusing the spectator bug. During the ban, Heroic kept him as an analyst and he took over the coaching duties again in April 2021 after his ban had expired.
But he recently alleged in an interview with TV2.dk that some of his former teammates knew he was cheating, without naming them, and said it’s their responsibility to come forward and admit it. His teammates at the time were Casper “cadiaN” Møller, René “TeSeS” Madsen, Martin “stavn” Lund, Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen and Johannes “b0RUP” Borup. The last two players aren’t a part of Heroic anymore and none of them have commented on the matter so far.
Heroic’s CEO Joachim Haraldsen categorically denied HUNDEN’s claims, though. “The coach bug was thoroughly investigated by ESIC, which found Nicolai Petersen guilty of cheating,” he said. He remembered that HUNDEN admitted to having cheated alone in the past. “I am convinced that ESIC and the rest of the world will see this for what it is: Nicolai Petersen failed his teammates by cheating, he failed them by sharing confidential and sensitive information with a major competitor, and now he is failing them a third time by trying to blame them for his deeds.”
This story likely isn’t finished yet, however, since evidence regarding the Heroic players could still become available to the public. CS:GO analyst Jacob “Pimp” Winneche said on Twitter yesterday that he was presented the material referenced in HUNDEN’s interview with TV2.dk and claimed it’s “highly probable” that he’s telling the truth. The evidence hasn’t been provided to the ESIC yet and the esports watchdog wasn’t aware of the accusations, according to HLTV.
Heroic said after the ESIC banned HUNDEN that it won’t make further comments on the case because of its sensitive nature and will focus on winning CS:GO matches, instead. The Danish coach told TV2.dk yesterday that he’s set to leave the Counter-Strike scene for good now that he’s been suspended once again. “Right now there is nothing called Counter-Strike for me after this,” he said.
Update Aug. 27 11:37am CT: TV2.dk has learned that HUNDEN did share Heroic’s strategies with an employee of Astralis. The 30-year-old claimed he was exposed to severe mental pressure after a long period with Heroic and that their relationship fell apart after he expressed his wish to leave the team around May 2021.
HUNDEN alleges the organization tried to convince him to stay by offering co-ownership, an apartment, and cars, but he told management that he was set on leaving. After that, Heroic allegedly told HUNDEN to not contact anyone on or around the team, which led to him locking the content on Google Drive and sent it to Astralis.
Heroic’s CEO Joachim Haraldsen told TV2.dk that HUNDEN continues to blame everyone but himself for his ban and that his allegations are an extension of the behavior he showed after gaining another chance on Heroic. “We can not go into detailed discussions about the relationship with a former employee, but Nicolai’s interpretation paints a completely wrong picture,” Haraldsen said. “It is important to point out that what we have previously referred to as “serious trust issues” was not only linked to the management, but also to the rest of the administration, the performance team and, worst of all, the players.”