ESIC lifts suspension of 9z CSGO coach zakk

Luís Mira
João Ferreira/PGL

The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) has lifted its suspension of 9z CS:GO head coach Rafael ‘zakk’ Fernandes, Dexerto has confirmed.

zakk was one of the three coaches provisionally suspended by ESIC on May 5, days before the start of PGL Major Antwerp, for encountering the spectator bug in competitive matches. He had the static variant of the bug in 1.5 rounds across two games between 2018 and 2020 while coaching two different teams, Luminosity and 9z.

Because of the suspension, he was not able to guide 9z in their first-ever Major tournament. The South American team, featuring players from Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, was eliminated in 23rd-24th place following defeats to ENCE, MIBR and Team Liquid in the Challengers Stage.

João Ferreira/PGL
zakk guided 9z to the Antwerp Major but then had to sit out the main tournament

Contacted by Dexerto, ESIC explained that, after “receiving additional information” from zakk in response to his notice of charge, Commissioner Ian Smith “has formed the view that a provisional suspension is no longer necessary pending ESIC’s final determination being issued.”

“The Commissioner would ordinarily maintain a provisional suspension in a situation where an integrity threat, whether actual, potential or perceived is, in the Commissioner’s view, posed to member events in the absence of a provisional sanction,” ESIC added.

zakk has been spotted coaching 9z in Roobet Cup 2022, an online competition hosted by ESIC-partnered tournament organizer Relog.

The esports watchdog told Dexerto that a final determination on zakk’s case will be made shortly.

Ongoing investigation

The Brazilian coach still faces a potential ban for encountering the bug. In its May 5 statement, ESIC stressed that, with the static variant of the bug, the “mere potential for exploitation”, regardless of whether an unfair advantage was achieved or not, “created an unrectified opportunity for an unfair advantage.”

The static variant is the more common variant of the coach bug, which in September 2020 led to 37 coaches being banned for periods ranging from just under four months to three years. It was later revealed that there were other two variants of the bug, called “free roam” and “third-person”. According to ESIC, almost a hundred coaches still face potential bans for use of the bug.

João Ferreira/PGL
Last month, Imperial coach peacemaker was cleared by ESIC

Besides zakk, Imperial’s Luis ‘peacemaker’ Tadeu and Team Spirit’s Sergey ‘hally’ Shavaev were suspended provisionally by ESIC ahead of the Antwerp Major. On May 26, days after the conclusion of the Major, peacemaker revealed that he had been cleared by ESIC, describing the outcome as “the biggest victory of my career”.

In a statement issued two days later, ESIC explained that it found the evidence provided by peacemaker “compelling”. The Brazilian coach encountered the free roam variant, the more serious of the three, but because ESIC views this variant as a cheating offense, it is necessary to establish that the outcome of an unfair advantage is achieved for a charge to be established.

In the end, peacemaker was suspended for 22 days for failing “to take appropriate action during or after the relevant match to bring the bug to the attention of the relevant authorities.”

hally, who had the static variant of the bug, remains suspended from ESIC member events, with a final determination on his case expected to be made shortly. Team Spirit will attend the IEM Cologne Play-In stage in July, but it remains unclear whether the Russian coach will be able to guide the team at the event.

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