Nicolas “NicolasTJO” Aubin and Jake “torkTJO” Lepoff have a checkered gaming past. The pair received bans from CEVO for cheating in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on June 8, 2015. Similar allegations surround them in earlier games, and they followed them to Overwatch as their team, Code 7, became one of the best in the game, eventually signing with Team SoloMid.
The pair have not denied their past and were up front about their Counter-Strike history when Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh expressed interest in the team, according to Dinh, who initially supported the players.
"They know that if they fuck up again we’ll drop them," he said on Reddit. "I hope the fans can understand that this is their second chance and give them the benefit of the doubt that this will not occur again."
But today TSM has transferred the the team to CompLexity Gaming, wiping their hands clean of a successful Overwatch squad that rightly or wrongly can’t seem to shake the demons of their past.
The announcement states “additional allegations regarding [the players'] competitive integrity in other games” led to the decision.
“As a brand, TSM has always been about hard work and performance,” Dinh said in the announcement. “I did not want our legacy to be associated with allegations of dubious behavior and I will always hold my brand to the highest standard. I still believe that the guys can prove their skill and clear their names through time and hope that the Overwatch scene can give them another chance regardless of this decision.”
Team SoloMid offered the other four players on its roster a chance to stay with the organization, Tony “Harbleu” Ballo told the Daily Dot, but the team wanted to stick together as six players. They’ve already qualified for the $100,000 ESL Atlantic Showdown at Gamescom later this month as well as the regional qualifier for the ELEAGUE and FaceIt Overwatch Open and a roster change could lose those berths.
"We think we could have found good replacements," Harbleu told the Daily Dot. "TSM was willing to buy out players from other teams. But with ELEAGUE and ESL coming up, we really wanted to attend those."
Plus they didn't want to throw away all the hard work they've put in to climb up the competitive ranks, he said. Since Harbleu joined the team in May, they've quickly grown into one of the top teams in the game.
When the team broke onto the scene as Code 7 in the beta, they certainly turned heads but still ranked outside the top tier of elite teams. Recently, though, their results are about as good as you can get. The new CompLexity has emerged as one of the top three teams in North America with a valid claim on the second spot after beating Cloud9 in multiple series.
Some may claim that’s because the two TJOs, as the pair are oft called, are up to their old cheating ways, but few teams at the top of the Overwatch competitive scene are immune to cheating accusations. Cloud9 star Lane “SureFour” Roberts lives with fans screaming “surelock” every time he makes a great play, even when he was playing from the Nvidia headquarters for a bootcamp before the Agents Rising live event. EnVyUs player Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka recently came under fire for suspicious mouse movement during a stream, prompting team owner Mike “hastr0” Rufail to respond to the allegations.
He’s more confident in his players as an owner than Dinh, it seems, but he probably has more reason to be considering the entire EnVyUs team is competing from his team house. The new CompLexity lineup plans to move into a team house of their own soon to prepare for the next big slate of events, but even that won’t end the cloud of doubt surrounding the two TJO players.
Either way, the cheating allegations are a cloud hanging over the Overwatch competitive scene. The only way they’ll be cleared is if tournaments like the upcoming ESL live event take the necessary measures to prevent cheating. As long as events like the Overwatch Open, with its $300,000 prize pool, are played mostly online, there will be questions surrounding many players, especially ones like the former TSM pair who have a history of it, even if it really is history. The only way to clear the cloud of accusations will be to implement a full live league where every match is played in a controlled environment.
Until then, the ghosts of the past and the specter of cheating will hang around the top performers, whether it’s justified or not. CompLexity is betting that it’s not, but TSM apparently can’t stomach the perceived risk.