The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) has announced that it has slapped Counter-Strike coach Nicolai ‘HUNDEN’ Petersen with a two-year ban over a breach of its integrity program.
The announcement follows an investigation launched in July by ESIC into claims that the Danish coach had leaked sensitive information to a competitor ahead of IEM Cologne without the knowledge of his then team, Heroic.
In a statement on Friday, ESIC explained that “extensive investigative efforts” were undertaken, including examination of the Google Drive access records and contents, and interviews with the Heroic management and the opposing team. It also requested a forensic IT report from forensic expert firm Frend.
In its findings, ESIC said that, at the time the material was shared, HUNDEN was negotiating a move to the opposing team, whose name was not released. A report by HLTV.org in July claimed that HUNDEN had emerged as a priority target for Astralis as the team’s head coach, Danny “zonic” Sørensen, was entering the final months of his contract with the organization.
According to the “forensic evidence available to date” by ESIC, the material shared by HUNDEN was not accessed by the recipient. However, considering that he was employed by Heroic, was locked in talks with the opposing team about a potential career move, and that both teams would attend IEM Cologne, ESIC deemed that HUNDEN:
- “Created a threat to the integrity of an ESIC member event (irrespective of whether or not that threat materialized);
- “Created a threat to the reputation of an ESIC member (irrespective of whether or not that threat materialized); and in doing so
- “Threatened harm to the reputation and competitive integrity of esports, and ESIC’s member ESL.”
ESIC added that its observations are corroborated by HUNDEN’s admission in a July 28 Twitter post that he shared “anti-strat material of opponents”. This, according to the esports watchdog, made the charge against the Danish coach “a self-evident matter.”
The ban will last until August 24 2023 and will be served across ESIC’s members, including ESL, DreamHack, WePlay, BLAST, LVP, Nodwin, Eden, Relog, UCC, Allied, Kronoverse, Estars and 247 Leagues.
The length of the ban had been revealed on Wednesday by Danish media outlet TV2.dk, which also conducted an interview with HUNDEN. In it, the coach questioned the way the investigation was handled, saying that ESIC had decided against hearing him, and claimed that he was threatened with a five-year ban if he appealed against the ruling.
But according to ESIC, HUNDEN has been invited to respond to the charge on multiple occasions since August 19. “To date, Mr. Petersen has failed to provide ESIC with any reply of substance relevant to the charge made against him,” ESIC added.
The esports watchdog also said that HUNDEN’s claim about being threatened with a harsher sanction in case of an appeal is “false”. It explained that the two-year ban was offered as “a plea bargain in good faith” and that HUNDEN could either accept the decision “or appeal it at risk of costs and a more onerous sanction at the discretion of the Independent Appeal Panel.”
“Mr. Petersen’s statements in this regard were not only a disingenuous misrepresentation of a plea bargain offered to Mr. Petersen in good faith by ESIC, but a misleading allegation that flies in the face of ESIC’s work in esports,” ESIC noted.
“It is apparent to ESIC that, as a matter of observation, Mr. Petersen has attempted to employ tactics to evade the scrutiny that should rightly be placed on his conduct with respect to the subject matter of this release and divert attention to fabricated procedural issues which have no direct relevance to or bearing on the outcome reached by ESIC.”
A new ban
This is not the first time that HUNDEN has landed in hot water with ESIC. In September 2020, he was among the 37 CS:GO coaches who were banned for using the spectator bug for competitive advantage.
HUNDEN was initially suspended for a year, but his ban was reduced by four months following a review of the case because of the assistance he provided in the investigation.
During his ban, he remained on Heroic’s books in an analyst position, returning to his coaching role in April after serving his suspension.
HUNDEN announced in late July that he was leaving Heroic at the end of his contract, citing his wish to “begin a new chapter” in his career after over a year with the team. He also denied “rumors” that he had shared the team’s strategy book, claiming that the only information that he had discussed was “anti-strat material of opponents.”
But just 24 hours later, Heroic issued a statement accusing HUNDEN of blocking team members’ access to a strategy folder and of revealing confidential and sensitive information with a major competitor prior to IEM Cologne. The Danish organization added that this constituted “a clear breach” of HUNDEN’s contract, and revealed that it had opened legal proceedings against the coach.
ESIC and IEM Cologne organizers ESL both stated that the competitive integrity of the tournament had not been impacted by the leak, but the esports watchdog underlined that HUNDEN’s behavior potentially constituted a breach of its integrity program.
HUNDEN has not yet announced whether he plans to appeal against the decision. But the Danish coach seems to have concluded that his career in the game is over, telling TV2.dk: “Right now there is nothing called Counter-Strike for me after this”.
It would appear that HUNDEN has come to terms with the fact that it's over for him in CS.
"Right now there is nothing called Counter-Strike for me after this"
That would at least explain why he's willing to burn down everything around him. https://t.co/m6FR6R8GMe
— Milan Švejda (@StrikerHLTVorg) August 26, 2021
This is perhaps the reason why, in the second part of the interview, which was released on Thursday evening, HUNDEN alleged that “some of the players” on Heroic knew that he was using the bug despite previously claiming that he had acted “on my own, without the knowledge of my teammates.”
CS:GO analyst Jacob ‘Pimp’ Winneche said on Twitter that he has seen evidence supporting HUNDEN’s new story. “It’s highly probable he’s telling the truth,” he wrote.
ESIC is yet to comment on these allegations, which could bring new charges in connection with the spectator bug case, which is still being investigated by the esports watchdog.