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Counter-Strike Pros Refuse To Play After Former Cheater Joins Team

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Back in 2014, Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian was cut from a major CSGO team called Titan after he got VAC banned for using a cheat program out of competition. The team collapsed not long after. At the time, he remorsefully declared his career “over.” Now he’s back, and people aren’t happy about that.

Recently, an organization called Vexed announced that KQLY will be playing for them during the upcoming ESL France event. Now, players who’ve received VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) bans aren’t allowed to compete in Valve-run majors, but ESL recently instituted a controversial rule that allows red-handed rule-breakers to rejoin the fray after serving two-year suspensions. So Vexed, a relative unknown, picked up KQLY, a former heavyweight of the scene.

A handful of pros, including two members of Vexed, are not pleased. Steve “Jarod” Cohen and Léonard “SmyLi” Michelino are refusing to play altogether.

“We were not informed of this decision that was imposed to us,” they said in a statement translated by FlickShot. “We were informed of it right before the official announcement. We cannot imagine ourselves working with someone that has harmed, to the extent that he has, the competitive integrity of CS. We therefore disassociate ourselves from this decision that we deem unethical. @vexedjarod and myself have informed @Vexed_GG that we wish to be benched.”

Shortly after, Vexed also lost a coach/analyst who similarly objected to the decision.

Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans, who was a member of KQLY’s old team Titan before it kerploded, also chimed in on Twitter. “Genius move from @Vexed_GG with @KQLY_ ,” he wrote. “Good luck and have fun to find players and sponsors in the future who will want to work with you.”

Longtime CSGO pro Spencer “Hiko” Martin gave his two cents as well, pointing to what he believes to be something of a double standard. “He gets VAC banned, but he can join a team?” he said during a stream. “My boy [Braxton “swag” Pierce] throws a match, and he’s banned for life, but KQLY literally cheats in the game, and he comes back? I guess he can’t play Valve events.”

So basically, it’s a big mess. Should cheaters even be allowed to come back after serving suspensions? And when they do, should fans and other players give them a second chance? Multiple years off your career is a steep price to pay, one that’s considered enough in many other sports. But is it steep enough to dissuade people from cheating in the first place? Or should esports go with a zero tolerance policy? At the moment, there’s no universal standard. There’s a case to be made that people—especially young people, which most esports competitors are—make mistakes, and they learn and grow over time. But also fuck cheating. That’s a very convincing case you could make, too.