ESL drops bans on ex-iBP and Epsilon players

Some of North America's best Counter-Strike talent are free to compete again.

Image via Valve

ESL has announced that bans on former iBUYPOWER players found guilty of match-fixing are to be lifted on August 1.

The announcement came as part of ESL’s work with the Esports Integrity Coalition, which seeks in part to develop standards for the effective policing of the breaking of rules. The four affected iBUYPOWER players will now be allowed to participate in all ESL Counter-Strike: Global Offensive events, save for those which are partnered with Valve.

The bans originally included seven players, four of whom were part of North American team iBUYPOWER, and stemmed an August 2014 match versus domestic opponents NetcodeGuides. Reports shedding light on the incident led to those four players, Sam “DaZeD” Marine, Braxton “swag” Pierce, Joshua “steel” Nissan, and Keven “AZK” Lariviere, being banned from competition indefinitely.

The lifting of sanctions will also extend to former members of French team Epsilon, who had themselves later been found guilty of match-fixing.

While the announcement does mean that the involved players could return to such events as ESL One and the ESL Pro League, Valve has yet to comment on the matter. ESL officials had hinted previously that some form of clemency might be offered to players banned in years past, but Valve has never given any such indication. So long as Valve’s bans remain in place, the players will remain unable to compete in majors, the richest and most prestigious Counter-Strike events of the year.

At the time, the banning of iBUYPOWER’s players came as a tremendous blow to Counter-Strike in North America. The team had firmly rooted itself atop the domestic scene, and for a stretch of time was the only American team to win a title at a tournament attended by Europe’s best. DaZeD in particular was considered to be the most capable in-game leader the region had to offer, and such players are a scarce commodity anywhere in the world.

Whether the players return to competitive Counter-Strike play remains to be seen. DaZeD and Steel have kept involved with the Counter-Strike community in varying capacities, while Swag has spent time under contract with Cloud9 before recently leaving the organization. AZK has since transitioned to playing Overwatch professionally, playing currently with Team Liquid.