Galaxy Battles was going to be a part of Valve's new approach to tournaments leading up to The International this year, but the tourney has just lost its official Valve backing thanks to a mandatory drug test. The tournament is scheduled to run from January 15th to the 21st in Ciudad de Victoria, Philippines.
"Based on information we've recently confirmed regarding new government regulations for esports players entering the Philippines," Valve defended on their blog, "we have decided to rescind the tournament's Major designation, including the Pro Circuit qualifying points, for the Galaxy Battles 2018 tournament." In the post, Valve cites "unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players, as a condition to enter the country," as the reason it is backing out of the tournament.
Kotaku's Compete reports these "unreasonable infringements" include drug tests. "Players were going to be subjected to drug testing and screening as part of a government policy in order to enter the country for that event," a Valve representative told Compete. "Given the local climate, we felt it best to pull back our involvement." Under a recent (as of July of last year) law from the Philippines' Game and Amusements board, all esports athletes are required to submit drug screenings for marijuana and crystal meth. "Without the proper and accurate information, international organizers and stakeholders may question this aspect of our regulation, and thus may hesitate planning for Philippine events," the board said in a statement acquired by ESPN freelancer Pao Bago. "We can only hope that all stakeholders will appreciate drug testing as an undeniable part of professional sports in the Philippines and the world."
The tournament is currently still planned to run, though it will no longer be a part of Valve's Dota Pro Circuit, which means participating teams will no longer earn points that could grant them a direct invite to The International in August. Due to this change, 4 of the 16 qualified teams have withdrawn from the tournament, including current International champions Team Liquid, as well as Team Secret, Virtus Pro, and Optic Gaming. Whether organizers Fallout Gaming and Purpose Win will replace those teams before the event starts is unclear at this time.
None of those teams have lost their chance to earn Pro Circuit Points, however. Valve is currently "talking to tournament organizers to try to find a way to run a Major with the invited and qualifying teams, including the Pro Circuit points that would have been available in Galaxy Battles 2018," the company said in its blog post.
So this isn't a total wash, though it very well could have been. While we understand that much of this comes down to Phillipines' President Rodrigo Duterte's stringent and often deadly approach to curbing drug use, it seems like they could have pulled the plug sooner. It's not like Duterte's approach to drugs has changed all of a sudden.