Jeffers’ ploy marked the first reported instance of robo-doping: using performance-enhancing algorithms to gain a competitive advantage in esports competition. Esports is a fast-growing field, and that has only accelerated in the midst of Covid-19. Zwift is one of many hybrid digital-physical platforms for other sports like rowing and running. Even longtime race promoter [Ironman is going digital](https://www.ironmanvirtualclub.com/: It launched a virtual race platform, where athletes earn points for their achievements and can compete in live races. But soon, sophisticated algorithmic enhancements in these competitions will make Lance Armstrong’s dalliances with blood transfusions and hormones look blunt, rudimentary, naive.
Doping in sports is a well-known issue—every professional league has clear regulations and punishments when the rules are broken. But in digital competitions, there’s no guideline or rule against the use of simulation programs to enhance performance. While esports associations ban certain substances, there is no international standard for robo-doping. It’s a murky area today, and that portends thorny problems on the horizon.
The factors that conspired to enable robo-doping that March day—fast internet speeds, cloud-based platforms, connected devices, algorithms, automation systems, bots—also power our day-to-day lives. Outside of esports, we’ve already seen how easily algorithms can be manipulated. In order to steer people away from their neighborhoods, people reported fake traffic accidents on Waze. At Reagan National Airport near Washington, DC, Uber and Lyft drivers have simultaneously gone offline for a few minutes to trick the platforms into thinking no drivers were available, resulting