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Dota 2

Team Aster Members Test Positive For COVID Before TI10

Patrick Bonifacio

Chinese Dota 2 squad Team Aster confirmed that a number of their members have tested positive for COVID, just nine days removed from the start of The International 10 (TI10). The organization announced the news via their official Weibo account, noting that the members in question are either asymptomatic or are experiencing mild symptoms. International Esports Federation (IESF) committee chairperson Tiffani “Oling” Lim likewise confirmed the news via Twitter.

Team Aster COVID TI10

Aster player-coach LaNm criticized Valve and PGL for not helping Aster through the situation, but later walked back on his assessment. (Photo by Huya)

According to the announcement on Weibo, players Du “Monet” Peng, Lin “Xxs” Jing, Ye “Borax” Zhibiao (formerly known as “BoBoKa”), coach Cheng “Mad” Han, and one unspecified staff member are currently positive. The organization claims that the team has been isolating since arriving in Romania, and that only the aforementioned staff member (referred to as “the leader” in their statement) has gone out for grocery runs since.

All of the relevant personnel in Team Aster are currently bootcamping at a hotel in Romania. Lim went on to note this as well on her Twitter account, mentioning that support player and Chinese Dota 2 veteran Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng “expressed disappointment” over the lack of COVID protocols at the hotel. LaNm criticized both Valve and PGL for having no COVID testing in place, as well as not providing teams with food and water. Furthermore, LaNm also said that Aster staff had to go out of their way to buy supplies in grocery stores outside of the hotel, and had to ask for COVID tests themselves.

Confusion in Romania

He has since walked back his statements, though, deleting the related posts on his personal Weibo account. Apparently, his opinions on the matter came as a result of a miscommunication between Aster as an organization and PGL. All five participating Chinese teams contacted PGL to help secure accommodations for their respective bootcamps in Romania. PGL obliged their requests, providing them with PCs with which to practice all the while.

However, while the Chinese teams operated under the impression that PGL would also provide them with food, water, and enforce COVID protocols, PGL actually did not promise to shoulder expenses for the teams in question. Instead, the organizer “asked non-Western teams to fly over” without guaranteeing safety protocols or free necessities. At the same time, former International champion and PSG.LGD Gaming coach Zhang “xiao8” Ning explained that the hotels that the Chinese teams are currently staying at are not the same as the hotel that Valve and PGL will provide for all the teams playing at TI10.

Who is to Blame?

Community opinion on this matter is so far divided. Some figureheads like Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen expressed that while this technically means that teams are responsible for their own well-being during the bootcamp period, the global situation is dire nonetheless and that Valve and PGL need to exert more effort in the interest of player safety. LaNm himself said as much in his deleted posts, saying that “this is TI” and wondering why neither Valve nor PGL seem to be worried about a possible outbreak.

Meanwhile, the “official” start date of the TI10 bubble is actually set on October 3rd, as confirmed by Team Secret CEO John Yao on the Dota 2 subreddit. Yao elaborated further in the thread, noting that he has “never heard of Valve-run bootcamps” and that they have “always been the responsibility of orgs and teams”.

Regardless of what the community thinks of these recent events, though, Aster have clarified that they have since procured fever medication for their players and staff. They will also be imposing a self-quarantine starting today. As for the rest of the Chinese delegation, LGD, Invictus Gaming, Elephant, and Vici Gaming all confirmed via their respective Weibo accounts that they have all tested negative. They also mentioned that they will continue to exercise due caution and sanitation protocols to prevent infection. No related news has come out of any of the teams from other regions thus far.

Update: Thiay “JT-” Jun Wen from Invictus Gaming has since tested positive.

The International 10 starts on October 7th, beginning with the first group stage games in Bucharest, Romania.