HUNDEN's mission to destroy Heroic: How a convicted coach became desperate to incriminate his former players and failed - Dexerto
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HUNDEN’s mission to destroy Heroic: How a convicted coach became desperate to incriminate his former players and failed

Published: 18/Oct/2021 21:34 Updated: 18/Oct/2021 21:44

by Richard Lewis

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The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) will take no action against Heroic players following public claims from their former coach, Nicolai HUNDEN Petersen, that they were complicit in his cheating actions. One player, Nikolaj niko Kristensen, was given a public reprimand and will have to attend two integrity education seminars following a recorded conversation where he said he had believed Petersen to be cheating.

Following Petersen’s acrimonious split from the organization, he took part in a sustained media campaign where he made a number of claims that the players knew about his use of the coaching bug for which he was banned. Speaking to Danish publication TV2.dk, he claimed to have evidence that showed players actively engaged in behaviors to facilitate his cheating and claimed to have damaging conversations that were effectively confessions. Having reviewed the evidence, these claims do not stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever and appear to be more driven by spite than any ethical motivating factor.

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The current crop of Heroic players, including some who weren’t even present at the time of Petersen’s two cheating occurrences, have been subject to a barrage of abuse following these claims. This was further compounded when the same documents showed that the Chief Gaming Officer, Erik Askered, had attempted to use alterations to their existing contracts to silence them. However, the documentation that was central to the allegations only seems to condemn the actions of Askered and no one else, despite what has been publicly claimed. It isn’t clear if ESIC will take any action against Askered or if they would have the jurisdictional capacity to do so.

Heroic esports
Heroic
ESIC determined that Heroic’s players were not complicit in HUNDEN’s actions

In an attempt to prevent any further misinformation from circulating about the team, this article will serve as a complete breakdown of the evidence Dexerto believes was sent to ESIC as part of Petersen’s cooperation with them. In addition to this summary, there were several other non-credible pieces of “evidence” that for the sake of brevity will not be given attention here. In short, absolutely nothing submitted implicates any of the players on the squad outside of Kristensen’s dubious claim that “everyone” knew, which will be addressed here.

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HUNDEN’s claims to have evidence that the Heroic players knew is false

The only two players even tangentially associated with the cheating allegations, Nikolaj niko Kristensen and René TeSeS Madsen, have circumstances around the claims that make exoneration the only fair conclusion. There is absolutely nothing incriminating that points to any other players despite the public claims made by Petersen.

Petersen’s claims hinge on a secretly-recorded phone call deliberately designed for the purposes of manipulating someone into saying something incriminating and a misrepresentation of expert testimony. These were given the illusion of weight from screenshots of conversations that don’t say anything directly damaging, nor corroborate any of the previously-made public statements.

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The Chief Gaming Officer and the “taking a bullet” claim

It is clear that Petersen provided evidence that Heroic’s Chief Gaming Officer, Erik Askered, did indeed believe that the coach taking the blame and saying he had acted alone was “taking a bullet” for the team. Askered then also contrived to lock the players and the coach into a non-disclosure agreement for 15 years to ensure the players could never speak about the matter in a relevant time period. This shows that Askered cannot be trusted on matters of integrity and should be ultimately disqualified from being anywhere near a competitive space. However, there are a few details that need to be acknowledged that should put paid to the notion that this in any way proves player complicity.

Firstly, it is clear from the context of the conversation that Askered has not conducted any form of internal investigation. He did not want to know one way or another which players knew or did not know. Nothing Askered says would lead anyone to believe players were involved with the use of the bug or that he even believed players had used the bug. The use of the term “taking a bullet” was also first introduced to the conversation by Petersen, although Askered agrees this is a reasonable summary of events. Simply put, Askered didn’t care and wanted to get the agreement signed with as little fuss as possible and was moving along a conversation. We can infer from the conversation that Askered would have happily taken part in a conspiracy if presented with that opportunity, but there is no evidence that a conspiracy took place.

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Secondly, the same conversation that Petersen uses to claim that the players were complicit contains facts that would explicitly contradict this. In the conversation, Petersen acknowledges that the player Johannes b0RUP Borup will “be a problem” [in regards to signing the NDA] as he “did not wanna work with a cheating coach (sic).” These words are Petersen’s and show that at least one player on the squad was so disgusted at his actions that they were in consideration of leaving. How this evidence fits along with the narrative that “all the players knew” and were in on it isn’t clear.

Thirdly, in a group chat between Askered, Petersen, and the players, they had to be asked if they agreed with the organization’s decision to keep Petersen on in a coaching capacity. This, along with their joint refusal to sign the non-disclosure agreement that would have ensured any guilty party’s silence, heavily suggests that the players were not aligned with Askered or Petersen prior to the concession that he could remain working with the team.

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When all of this is considered, Askered’s attempts to silence the players contractually look like a way to affect control and to stop the same kind of media tour that Petersen engaged in once he was done with the organization. It doesn’t prove any knowledge about any players being involved nor does the conversation at any time even imply that anyone had any knowledge of player involvement.

Misrepresentation of expert testimony

As part of the claims made in the series of interviews by TV2.dk, Petersen said he had evidence of player complicity that could be proven with server logs. Specifically, Petersen claimed that René TeSeS Madsen had boosted him into a position for the explicit purpose of gaining the most benefit from the coaching bug. This was also claimed to be verified by expert testimony. The report said:

“TV 2 SPORT has contacted one of the world’s leading judges within Counter-Strike, who has in-depth knowledge of the coaching bug. He has examined the server log carefully and confirms that Nicolai HUNDEN Petersen’s explanation of having received help from a player “definitely makes sense when you look at the matter”.

Having identified and contacted the expert in this matter, they have stated that this materially misrepresents what they said and meant. They clarified that Petersen’s version was certainly within the realm of possibility but that there was absolutely nothing in the server logs that confirmed that version with a 100% degree of certainty. When they used the word “definitely” they meant in confirmation to the part where Madsen was on the server with Petersen. Beyond that, there is nothing in a server log that would 100% show the player was boosting a coach for the purposes of accessing the coaching bug.

Heroic's TeSeS at IEM Fall
Stephanie Lieske/ESL
Nothing in the server logs suggests that TeSeS boosted HUNDEN

Furthermore, even if Madsen did boost Petersen in such a manner, nothing in that action itself would point to him explicitly understanding why such a request was being made. This presupposes that Madsen knew that the coaching bug existed and that it could be accessed from a boosted position when a coach moved into a coaching position. No such evidence of either exists.

As a thought exercise, imagine a scenario where Petersen — assuming at some point in the future he might get banned — wanted the option to leverage his teammates by asking them to participate in something they thought was entirely innocent. The player, following instructions from their coach, boosts them as requested without knowledge of the purpose. Then, months later, Petersen, who we know from chat logs was disgruntled with some of the players, referring to them as “cry babies,” states that the action was part of a cheating conspiracy. The fact this possibility exists is another reason to discount this as being hard evidence. It simply isn’t.

So, all we know for sure from the server logs is that Madsen was indeed on a server with his coach before a match and doesn’t deny having boosted his coach during that time. He has stated he didn’t know what for. Petersen claims this was for the purposes of using the bug but the server logs cannot confirm this. That is the official stance of the same expert used by Petersen, TV2.dk and ESIC.

The secret phone recording of Nikolaj niko Kristensen

Petersen, motivated by an understanding that his case lacked substantive evidence, attempted to coerce his former player Nikolaj niko Kristensen into a confession and to implicate his teammates via a series of leading questions. This call, unbeknownst to Kristensen, was recorded by Petersen as a last-ditch attempt to provide compelling evidence to ESIC. The date of the call is from August 2021, long after the incident and long after Petersen had served his suspension.

There are a number of ethical concerns with this activity from the start. The first revolves around the legality of the move. Denmark is a single-party consent country from a legal standpoint, meaning only one person has to decide to record any call they participate in for it to be legally sound. However, as a country that values privacy, Danish law states you could be legally compromised for sharing calls that are believed to be private. The second concern is that it is known to many in esports that Kristensen is afflicted with mental health conditions that could make him more susceptible to suggestions and give him memory issues. This has been confirmed directly by Dexerto and it is reasonable to assume that Petersen, having worked with the player, would be aware of this.

These two factors have a sinister implication that is hard to overlook. However, even from a practical standpoint, a single recorded conversation of a recollection of events that took place over a year ago, presented by an unreliable witness, cannot be considered substantial evidence. Regardless, TV2.dk had already published a small extract of the call, evidently the most incriminating part, divorced from its original context. Here’s the complete exchange that was represented as being evidence.

Niko: Yes, but it’s… that’s the thing, and that’s what’s true here as well, as we have also talked about before… EVERYONE on our team knew

HUNDEN: Yeah… Yes, yes… Yea, and it…

Niko: Maybe not in the first match, but after. Everyone knew

HUNDEN: Yes, and it’s also, I mean, I am able to tell from the conversations we have had, you know, afterwards, it is pretty clear that more people knew the second time around compared to the first time, so…

Niko: Yeah…

This exchange being used as a primary piece of evidence is so ridiculously flawed that it shouldn’t need to be explained. How Kristensen can be assumed to know the minds of all his fellow players and whether or not they “knew” about the coaching bug is ridiculous. This is contradicted as we know from Petersen’s own words that Johannes b0RUP Borup certainly didn’t know as he was prepared to leave the team over Petersen remaining part of the organization. So if it’s not “everyone” then what does that word mean in this context? All the others? Him and one more? Maybe it is an assumption that, because he had figured it out, the others must have too.

The other part of the conversation that Petersen believed to be incriminating was the following back and forth:

HUNDEN: That being said, now that we’re here, I don’t know if it might be for the better to go out and tell the truth? I mean, for the five of you too? I mean, you were ready to go out and tell the truth the last time, also, with René [TeSeS], that you had been a part of it. Uhm. I know it might end up… and… but I don’t think they are going to end up banning you guys anyway. I don’t think ESIC has the resources to do anything about it, honestly

Niko: Nah, I don’t know, I think we will just… I don’t know, just take it chill and see what… gonna talk to OG about what is gonna happen and stuff

HUNDEN: Yea, yea of course. But you never told OG what happened, or what?

Niko: Yea, yea, they knew from the beginning, cause I told them

Petersen seems to believe that this section of the conversation amounts to a confession but that reading seems to be a function of internal biases. This exchange seems to show that Kristensen was not willing to speak publicly on the matter and would wait to see how the ESIC investigation progress. It also states that his new team, OG, were aware of the investigation, not that Kristensen had been complicit.

The rest of the conversation is mostly Kristensen not saying much and trying to get off the call. It is hard to believe that, if there was any damning evidence that pointed to player complicity, this recorded call would have even be attempted. Even with leading questions aimed towards a vulnerable individual, this was the best that Petersen could obtain. Kristensen has certainly self-incriminated with his words, but this is certainly not robust enough to issue a severe punishment to the player when all things are considered.

As a final point, even if you were to take Kristensen’s claims at face value, that he himself had figured it out after the first match against Astralis, what does that mean in a broader context? Petersen cheated only one more time after that, so Kristensen would have needed to know when he activated the bug and to raise an objection. It’s worth noting there were several series between the two cheating incidents to which Petersen confessed where no cheating occurred. So even if Kristensen “knew” as he infers, as in knew that Petersen could use the bug, how would he know when?

For sure if a player has any suspicion someone involved in their team is cheating, they have a moral obligation to address it. According to ESIC’s report, Kristensen attempted to convince other teammates that Petersen was cheating but they didn’t believe him. Perhaps when he left for a new team that was the perfect opportunity to contact ESIC. Despite his failure and subsequent ill-obtained “admissions”, the player has certainly been through a turbulent enough time with the emotional strain of the inquiry hovering over him. It was likely a significant factor in his team’s drop in performance, which contributed to them not qualifying for the Major.

Heroic at IEM Fall
Stephanie Lindgren/ESL
Heroic’s players should feel aggrieved about the conclusions many have jumped to

In summary, there’s nothing that has been presented to Dexerto that would be considered conclusively damning towards the players. Petersen’s testimony can be judged on its own merits and believability. His credibility is not just harmed by the fact he is a convicted cheater but also has publicly stated that lied during the first ESIC investigation. This standing is further damaged by the fact that, despite having ample opportunity to gather truly damning evidence, he was not able to, and that he engaged in one last desperate attempt to gather some implies that on some level he knows how utterly flawed his case is.

Petersen’s legacy was always going to be a dark spot on both himself and the people who trusted him, but these attempts to impugn the reputations of his former players cast him further in shadow. Whatever the truth of what happened, it will not be Petersen that sheds light on it, and the players can rightly feel aggrieved about the conclusions many have jumped to. No evidence of a crime doesn’t mean no crime occurred, but you certainly cannot convict those accused, except in the perennially unfair court of public opinion.