Explaining all the controversy around TSM, Doublelift, and Dardoch

Melany M. May 16, 2020

It’s been four days since Team SoloMid president Aleena “Leena” Xu leaked confidential information on Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s Twitch stream. The incident reignited the accusations of conflict of interest against TSM, but like every other drama in the community, people stopped talking about it and moved on.

But this leak was more than an isolated incident. It will have permanent effects on the career of jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett, and it might affect the credibility of the LCS and its commissioner Chris Greeley.

There two concepts that people are throwing around when talking about this issue, conflict of interest, and competitive integrity. What do we mean with these two terms that keep getting thrown around?

  • Conflict of interest: A situation in which someone cannot make a fair decision because they will be affected by the result.
  • Competitive integrity: The guarantee that a competition is fair and honest. It means that all teams are held to the same standards and that no team gets preferential treatment over the others.

With those concepts clarified, it’s necessary to take a look at the events to figure that took place and how TSM ended up in this mess.

TSM vs competitive integrity, a timeline

June, 2018

Doublelift, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, and Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg are elected as executive officers at the NALCS Player Association. The NALCSPA is funded by Riot Games, and it appears to be more of a formality than an actual organization run by the players.

September, 2019

Doublelift and TSM President Leena start publicly dating.

October, 2019

Bjergsen is granted ownership of TSM. He remains as part of the NALCSPA, and this is the first stance of conflict of interest. A team owner cannot be involved in the NALCSPA.

November, 2019

Biofrost, Dardoch, and Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup join TSM.

April 16, 2020

After finishing the season in ninth place, Team Liquid reveals that Doublelift’s contract is up for trade. The community starts speculating that he might rejoin TSM. Doublelift spends a good part of the month around this revelation openly criticizing the coaching staff and, to a lesser extent, his former teammates over at Liquid. People assumed that the relationship went sour for all parties involved.

April 26, 2020

Doublelift officially rejoins TSM. The community starts talking about a possible conflict of interest. LCS commission, Chris Greeley releases a statement where he reveals that there’s no evidence of prohibited behavior.

Fans start wondering what will happen to Kobbe, who only played in North America for one split.

May 11, 2020

Kobbe is officially released from TSM, joining Misfits in the LEC.

Later in the day, Doublelift’s streams picks up part of a conversation when romantic partner Leena says: “It’s honestly not up to me. Like for example, no one wants to pick up Dardoch. That’s not my fault”.

Leena shares an apology on TwitLonger.

May 12, 2020

TSM's Andy "Reginald" Dinh shares a public apology on Twitter.

May 13, 2020

Biofrost accidentally shows a Discord group that includes jungler Mingyi "Spica" Lu. Spica already played with the TSM LCS roster in 2019.

Present

The LCS has yet to release any further statements regarding the situation.

What does the TSM and Doublelift controversy mean for the LCS?

Despite poor result in the past five splits, TSM remains the most popular organization in North America. At every international event, whether TSM is present or not, the audience chants the team’s name. TSM still attracts a broad audience of fans that are loyal to the organization. In a franchised league, TSM is every developer’s dream, a golden child.

The problems begin when your favorite child starts misbehaving.

This is not the first time that TSM has broken the rules, and it’s not the first time the LCS has seemed to turn a blind eye to the situation. In the past, TSM has been accused of tampering, intimidating journalists, and having shady business practices. No matter how many times TSM is accused, the LCS remains hesitant to punish the organization.

When commissioner Greeley deemed the Doublelift transfer as legal, the community raised an eyebrow. There wasn’t a paper trail. The parties involved lived together through the entire transfer. Now, by not taking a stance against this issue, commissioner Greeley is silently agreeing with TSM and proving once again that LCS rules don’t always apply to TSM.

It’s situations like this that end up tarnishing the reputation of the league as a whole. With every second that goes by, Greeley is losing more credibility. And how should other teams feel about the situation at TSM?

What does the controversy mean for Dardoch?

After Leena’s phone call, Dardoch has lost all of his bargaining power. Dardoch might accept a very low salary, or simply miss the summer split. Unlike other players that can bounce back from being dropped and become content creators, Dardoch is not that much of a streamer.

Who should be helping Dardoch in this situation? The NALCSPA, the same organization with three TSM players on the board.

The NALCSPA could intervene and try to protect Dardoch, but they likely won’t, due to an obviou conflict of interest. Why would Bjergsen act against the very team that he partly owns? Why would Doublelift act against his own girlfriend? Dardoch is the latest victim of TSM's ongoing mess. The truth is, unless Dardoch settles for a much lesser contract, he might be done in the LCS.

While Dardoch’s career is perhaps close to being over, TSM and its executives can continue abusing their power in the LCS. More than ever before, it seems to fans that TSM is above the law.