Alex "Waldo" Waldherr had the chance to sit down and talk with David "sensu" Oliver about the situation that grabbed the attention of the North American scene a little over a week ago involving himself, Jake "eptima" Allen, and Matt "TheSurgeon" Johnson. All three are currently serving malicious activity bans on ESEA for knowingly playing matches in ESEA Open Season 36 with eptima while he was serving a previous ban.
At the beginning of this season you were with SKDC, so if you wouldn't mind just setting the stage and help us understand why you left the team?
Yeah, sure. So a lot of people said I was crazy for leaving SKDC but I just felt that we were putting in a lot of time and there wasn't really a lot of improvement compared to how much time we would put in. We would scrim a lot but we wouldn't really see any benefit from doing that. It just seemed like our team wasn't a very good, cohesive mesh. After our second best-of-three I decided that it was time to explore other options and while I was exploring those other options I decided to play on this Open team with a friend for a bit while still looking for another Premier team.
Would you mind speaking a little bit to who your friend was and how they fit into this whole picture? How did you end up running into this lineup in the first place?
Right, so my friend was...was...*laughs* it wasn't really a friend who was the reason why I joined the team, but he was more someone who was paying me to get his team together. I would coach them and do demo review with them and I was being compensated a decent amount for doing that, just in the meantime while I was looking for a new Premier team. But it was TheSurgeon who I joined for.
Had he become familiar with you just through your reputation playing in Premier? How did that connection first happen?
The connection first happened on a FACEIT pug and I think we were on opposite teams? At first I thought he was really crazy and wild, but eventually I just thought he was a goofy, weird guy and we got into contact that way. I added him on Steam friends, like whatever, and then later on down the line we get to this point where I'm looking for another Premier team and while I'm doing that he happened to be running an Open team and was really desperate for help on improvement. So I offered some help doing that for a small payment, that's basically how all of that happened.
So it started out with things like VOD review and individual coaching? Or were you running practices for the team, in their ears during scrims, what did that look like?
Yeah, I just kind of joined in. At first TheSurgeon was IGLing. Then I hopped in to IGL and show how it was done. I just showed them a bunch of defaults on T-side and a bunch of setups on CT-side to run to really clean up their gameplay, which did really help a lot.
Yeah, that's basically it. I watched some of the demos so I could see exactly what they were doing wrong, what positions they forgot to play, what setups they forgot to run, what nades they forgot, that sort of thing.
Are you comfortable confirming how much you were offered to provide those services? For both the coaching and the pointers and then actually playing with the team in officials. Did that compensation change from one to the other?
The compensation was pretty loose. It wasn't a set put this many hours in and get x amount of money. It was just kind of loose, whenever we felt it was necessary to get a payment I would get one. But not like a crazy amount, not a small amount either though. But I don't feel like I need to say exactly how much I was offered.
What shifted from your time as a coach? The team was winning games without you in the server actually playing so what led to that shift that you went from being more externally involved to you actually playing the games with TheSurgeon and the rest of the team?
It sort of started with some *laughs* Twitter beef between TheSurgeon and another streamer named Ahrora. Basically that's when it switched because they were going to play a match against each other and he really wanted me in the server, he wanted the best chance possible to beat him. So I hopped in the server for that one and then once I got in the server for that game I just figured I would stay a little bit since I was still looking for another Premier team. So yeah, I just kinda got in for that game and while I was searching for another team why not stay for a bit?
Just to clarify that was the game against "Washed Up 5", correct?
So that was your first game that you played with the team and that would've been on the second of February and then at that point it was more of a seamless transition? Did you see potential in the team? For them to advance through Open? What was the motivation, or were you just biding your time until better options opened up?
Definitely that team could probably make it to Advanced at the very least. That team definitely could make it there. But no, I wasn't looking to stay until that point, I was definitely looking for a Premier team.
It was four total games that you played with the team is that correct?
I believe so.
You played the first two, there were no issues there. Were you having any qualms with your participation with the team? Were you aware of anyone having issues with your presence in that division?
I don't think there were many people that had an issue with my presence there because you see it all the time. Just a couple of seasons ago Yeah was in Open and they were a salaried, pro team.
Right, and paiN most recently.
And paiN too, yep. So in that regard I didn't really notice anyone caring that I was there.
Were people aware that it was you who was playing in these games even on the "drooling-noob" account?
I was very very open that it was me. Yeah, all my teammates on stream would be calling me sensu and if anyone asked of course you're not allowed to alt on ESEA and pretend you're actually a new player. You have to say who you are. So yeah, I was very open. Not trying to hide at all who it was. Definitely was me.
I guess this is where we get into more of the controversy of what happened. Between the second and third game how much had you heard about this new player that was coming out of nowhere, no pun intended.
How much did you know about the addition of who would eventually be found to be eptima?
I guess ESEA thought that was my idea or something but I actually had no idea that we would be adding him. I did know him in the past, a long long time ago we were teammates...eh no, actually we weren't even teammates on ESEA we were teammates on another league. I don't think we were ever actually teammates but we did pug a couple of times together.
I didn't actually know until very close to matchday and all the way up to the match the whole time I was just saying how bad of an idea it was. I didn't actually know I could get banned though, I knew he was going to get caught, ESEA always catches everyone. Of course if I knew that if he got caught I would get banned, I would've left instantly.
But yeah, the whole time all the way up to the match I was just saying this is a terrible idea. TheSurgeon and him at first were planning to hide it from everyone. They were going to put him on a voicechanger and come into our games and he would completely pretend to be a new person with a voicechanger. Eventually I just kept bugging and asking and then he said who it was and then the whole time I was just saying how terrible of an idea it was, how he's going to get caught, they always get caught. No one ever ban evades on ESEA for longer than a week *laughs*.
Yeah, and after he got banned for ban evading then I got banned as well. I was unaware... in fact I'm still not entirely aware why I was banned. At first it was only me that was banned and that was very odd.
I guess the logical next question is do you regret playing those second two matches? What could you have done differently at that point? How were you enticed to stick around for those matches with the risk involved?
Regret is definitely an understatement. Basically now my CS:GO career is done. There's pretty much no recovering from a one year ban. I'm 21 years old so if I was going to make it anywhere it had to be this year or next year. So regret is definitely an understatement. But basically I was enticed to stay on board because everyone just told me it's fine, it's fine, you won't get banned. Only he can get banned because you're not doing anything wrong, it's just him that'll get banned if he gets caught. That's basically what I was led to believe and it was very wrong.
Do you hold yourself to a higher standard having reached the highest levels of ESEA? Getting there with SKDC was a challenge, even with VALORANT opening up some real estate at the top. As a player who has made it to that level do you feel that it's fair to be held to a higher standard?
I do, yeah. For sure. I absolutely hate cheaters, matchfixers, all of that. I didn't really feel like I was at the time because I was told that it'd be fine, obviously I know that it's wrong to play with a ban evader. But yeah, I do think it's ok to be held to a higher standard. Now the question is whether or not doing something that I didn't even know could end my CS:GO career, if that's a warranted punishment. Basically I don't know that a one year ban is a warranted punishment.
So your biggest concern is more with the length of the punishment as opposed to the idea of being punished at all?
Right. I think it's reasonable. The thing about punishing me though, I think it's really odd that no one else got any punishment, it was only me.
By only you you're referring to the other players playing on SDCF?
Were you ever a part of a Discord server with TheSurgeon or anything like that outside of league play? How were you aware of the behind the scenes stuff going on with all of this? Obviously you had some communication with the team outside of ESEA while you were coaching, just to shine a light into how you kind of interacted with the team outside of the server.
Yeah, I have TheSurgeon added on Steam friends. I have all those guys on that team on Steam friends. I have TheSurgeon's Discord server, which is now deleted. *laughs* I also have a TeamSpeak with them.
How long did you find out that discussions with eptima were going on prior to you knowing becoming aware of that?
I found about it leading up to the match. Very close to match time. The night before or the night of, but it was very quick. But I didn't have a whole lot of time to really look through the rules of whether or not everyone on the team gets banned or what was happening there, because apparently not everyone on the team gets banned.
What attempts have you made to reach out to ESEA and try to get clarification at this point? What has the interaction with the service looked like on your side of things?
Well first of all I was trying to figure out why I was even banned. A lot of people said that I left my old team SKDC and joined this roster too soon and that's why I got banned for a year. So first I reached out to... well since I'm IP banned every time I go to ESEA they have an email you can email. So I emailed them there asking why I was banned, I put my username and IP address, asked them why I was banned, and they've just said that they don't discuss malicious activity bans at all and that I'll have to wait for my ban to expire before I can come back. That's the only communication that I've had.
But I have had friends who are close friends to some ESEA admins try to reach them. They're friends in real life or whatnot and just asked "Hey why is he banned?", "What's going on there?" Stuff like that. But it's been pretty cold shoulder so far with not very much clarification.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to clarify what the server disruption two day ban that you received on your account earlier this month was. What happened there?
*laughs* Yeah, basically it was really silly. I just called connector on Mirage and this guy who was throwing the game intentionally, he wasn't using his microphone he was playing my spot and all that, so I just shot him in the head once or twice and said hey man I'm playing connector. I went about my way and I went to go anchor B and apparently he reported me shooting him, even though there's no team damage on ESEA with guns. I just shot him in the head once or twice and they gave me a little ban for that.
At this point have you had any communication with any of the other players since this all transpired? I've seen the hashtag #FreeSensu a couple times and players that have insisted that you didn't do anything that warranted this one year ban, they're in agreement with you. Have you had communication with other people from TheSurgeon's community or TheSurgeon himself?
Pretty much ever since my ban I don't really communicate with anyone in that community actually. I kind of just get a really bad taste in my mouth when I talk to any of them. They message me a lot saying sorry, just grind FACEIT pugs for a year, but I really just try not to talk to them because of that bad taste. Even though they've shown some support for me or whatever, but I just can't get past it because a lot of those same people told me it'd be fine to play, get some wins, and I wouldn't get banned. So yeah, I don't really contact them anymore.
Now that being said, I still do owe some playing time for TheSurgeon just from payments. I'm a man of my word so maybe I'll play some VALORANT for cash for him or something I really have no idea what the future holds but we'll see.
My last question, you mentioned a little bit about how you have some outstanding debts in terms of your time to TheSurgeon, but what else are you planning on doing from here? Where are you planning on going and what do your future plans look like with this new reality that you find yourself in?
It's still not 100% decided. A lot of my friends tell me just grind FPL, FPL-C for like a year and just come back in a year. But it's really disheartening because the only reason that I play pugs is to improve for my league play. My team play. That's what I really care about in CS. I really don't like pugs at all, they really annoy me. So I really don't see myself pugging FACEIT for a year, it's just way too long for me.
I think the next step for me, unfortunately, I really hate to say it because I just absolutely love CS to death, and I've been working hard to get Premier for maybe two years now since I started playing Open. I'm a student of the game, always looking for new ways to play it. Anyways, I really hate to say it but I think I might have to go to VALORANT. Unfortunately, given the circumstance that I'm in. But maybe I'll learn to love VALORANT, I haven't given it a fair shot yet, I really haven't. We'll see, maybe I'll enjoy it.
As it stands now sensu is banned until 2/11/2022 at 10:29 PM. eptima is banned until 4/11/2030 at 2:34 PM and TheSurgeon is banned until 2/11/2031 at 1:07 PM. ESEA declined to comment on the matter.