An investigation that began over three months ago during S65 of the VHL has drawn to a conclusion with the release of the completed report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The lengthy, in-depth report concludes that the VHL and all subsidiaries including the VHLM, the VHL and VHLM Fantasy Zones, and the VHL’s TPE program do not violate any laws and can continue to run unrestricted. The FBI’s findings are a complete exoneration for the VHL organization, leaving fans, players, and executives jumping for joy.
The investigation was started by the Nevada Gaming Commission when then VHLM player Charlie Paddywagon made a bet in the VHLM Fantasy Zone. The NGC was alerted by an anonymous source that Paddywagon placed a bet against his own team. The NGC immediately publicly announced the opening of their investigation into Paddywagon’s actions and quickly uncovered details around the functioning of the VHL organization that alarmed them enough to reach out to the FBI. According to the NGC, the VHL has no system in place to prevent match fixing and it actually seemed like the VHL was encouraging players to bet on games. The FBI took over as the lead investigators, requesting more than 2.5 million documents from the VHL. The VHL provided the requested documents but then took the defense of their league to the public by hosting a public presentation where they provided in-depth details about how the VHL is a simulation. They explained that the players aren’t actively playing the game, they are hooked up to a machine that interprets their hockey ability which enters that data into a computer that plays the entire game for the players. What fans in person and on TV see is a holographic projection of the simulation, they explained. Their defense was essentially that the players themselves could not throw a game they bet on because they don’t have the ability to affect the simulation while it is running. This bombshell of information set off a worldwide frenzy. People were shocked to learn this technology existed and was so convincing. That increased focus on the VHL led to the discovery of another shocking component of the VHL, the drug TPE. Disgruntled former VHL employee, Dr. Jakub Satan came forward describing the VHL’s TPE program. He called TPE a performance enhancing drug that was given to players by the VHL. The FBI engaged the Food & Drug Administration to investigate this unknown substance, TPE while the FBI continued its investigation into the entire VHL organization. After some leaked details about the discovery of a secret TPE factory, the FBI placed a gag order on all investigators until the investigation was complete. That was almost 2 months ago. The silence was broken by the FBI’s announcement of the completion of the investigation a couple of days ago.
For more in-depth details of the story, please check out our previous articles found here, in chronological order:
Charlie Paddywagon Investigated
VHL Corporation Replies to FBI Inquiries
VHL is a Simulation
Paddywagon Temporarily Cleared to Play
Is TPE a performance enhancing drug?
FDA to investigate TPE
FBI raids VHL offices
TPE made in Albuquerque
FBI Completes investigation
The report breaks up the investigation into two separate parts. The first examines the question “Can a VHL/M player fix a match they are participating in?” Since the VHL allows its players to bet on pre-selected games with no restrictions this introduces the situation that caused this entire investigation to begin. That being a player can bet against their own team. In all other leagues, this action is prohibited because if it were allowed, the integrity of the game would come into question. The league would be allowing an opportunity for fraud to occur. If the league allowed the fraudulent activity of a player purposely losing a game that league would then be an active participant in fraud against other bettors and fans who purchased a ticket expecting to see a fair match. Without directly saying so, the FBI insinuated that if a league allowed this fraud to occur, the FBI would have the ability to immediately force the shut down of the league. During the investigation, the VHL provided many documents and made a public argument that players of the VHL could not fix a match because they do not have that level of agency in the simulation that plays and then broadcasts the games. The FBI provides comprehensive details on its verification method of they VHL’s claim. Part of their verification required an in-depth review of the coding of the simulation program. The FBI says they hired over 1,000 simulation software experts who spent more than 100,000 man hours reviewing the simulation code. Another part required the FBI to run millions of simulation tests. They created scenarios, instructed human participants for how to act during the simulation, and analyzed the results from those repeated tests. Because of the speed of the simulation, they were able to run more than 100,000 simulations a day. All of that exhaustive work led to the FBI’s confident conclusion that “the VHL’s simulation is 100% tamper proof from the standpoint of the individual participants (players) in the simulation.” The FBI did note that the person who runs the simulation does have the ability to tamper with the configuration and could influence the results. They reviewed the VHL’s internal policies for how the current “simmers” operate in the VHL and gave their approval, with one small recommendation that periodic internal audits occur to confirm the “simmers” are not modifying the simulation prior to executing the simulation.
The second part of the report examines the VHL’s TPE program. The public details on this program have been sparse, aside from the claims made by former employee, Dr. Satan. Dr. Satan alleged the VHL was forcing a performance enhancing drug known as TPE on its players. If these allegations were true, the FBI would have immediately shut down the TPE program, the VHL itself, and probably jailed anyone involved in the TPE program. The report includes a detailed analysis performed by the FDA looking into the content of TPE. The FDA analyzed the chemical content, the functioning of the drug once applied, and the post application affect on the individual. Based on that analysis the FDA concluded “while TPE does increase specific attributes which lead to an increased performance of the individual, TPE does not contain any substance that is classified as an illegal narcotic. Therefore TPE is not classified as a drug and legal for distribution and consumption.” The report found that the VHL created separate pills to target specific hockey-related attributes. For example, there is a pill to increase a player’s skating ability, or passing ability, or face-off ability. The player consumes the pill and the next time they are hooked up to the simulation machine, it interprets them as being better at whatever attribute they consumed the pill for. Due to the fact that much of the information is proprietary, the report did not include too many details on how TPE accomplished this amazing feat. The FBI’s review of the TPE program also addressed the allegation of the VHL forcing players to consume TPE. Any forced consumption of a substance as a prerequisite for playing in the league could be viewed as an improper business practice. The FBI determined that the TPE program was completely voluntary. Players could decide if they wanted to participate in any of the league related task that the league ran. Written in the report is this conclusion, “While the VHL heavily promotes TPE earning for all its players, it is not a requirement for entrance into the VHL. Players are able to decide if they want to participate and consume TPE or not.” Their conclusion continues and ends classifying the TPE program as voluntary. “Since the TPE program is voluntary, it is allowed to run as it currently exists.”
Ramifications of the report are wide ranging. For the league itself, the VHL board of governors and employees can breathe a sigh of relief not only because of the ideal outcome of the investigation but also because all of the spotlight on the VHL has increased its popularity. The release of this report also lifts a black cloud over the future of the VHL. The league can now run unhindered into the future, which has to help cement plans for future expansion. In addition to that, the VHL may have found a new revenue source from selling or licensing their simulation and holographic display technology. In fact, the report stated there are already other simulation leagues running in other sports, namely the SBA and the EFL. It’s most likely the VHL has aided those leagues with their technological efforts. “I’m sure that the simulation and convincing holographic projection technology displayed by the VHL could be used across all industries.” said technology expert Celise Aiken. All of that may be small potatoes in comparison to the windfall that could come from selling TPE technology. Miss Young continued, “They have a pill that can make someone faster, stronger, smarter, who knows the limitations. That is the ultimate golden goose. They might as well start printing money.” The FBI’s report did not find that the VHL has sold their TPE technology to other companies, but now that they have received clearance from the FDA that TPE is not a drug, they can probably sell TPE technology to anyone they want. It will be interesting to see how the VHL handles all of this new interest and potential big money deals.
All VHL fans, diehards and newcomers alike, have been thrilled by the news from the report. Superfan @VHL4Life tweeted: “I knew VHL is the best! This report proves it! Let’s focus on S67!” Many new fans have been drawn to the VHL to marvel at the technology. While attending a recent preseason VHLM game in Minnesota 13 year-old Drew Masters said “I just think it’s so cool that this is computers and holograms. It’s like a live video game in person! I hope I can buy it and play it myself someday!” Some detractors have voiced their disapproval at the report. George Bauer was dismayed “I don’t know how any of this is legal. They’re feeding them drugs and hooking them up to machines. Back in my day people actually put on skates and played like men. I like my sports like I like my coffee, real.” However, the detractors appear to be in the minority, a recent social media poll found that 82% of respondents approve of the VHL’s technological approach to sports. Sports analyst Keith Brunswick noted “People really like feeling like they’re taking part in the future. The VHL has become the world’s greatest showcase of future technology and fans are loving it.” One of the brightest spots for the VHL is the increase in viewership from the younger demographic. This is a notoriously difficult demographic to reach, but the VHL saw a large increase during the previous season and projections for the coming season indicate the increase of viewers ages 12 -18 will continue at the same pace as last season if not accelerate. Brunkswick continued “What the VHL has going on right now is a marketer’s dream. The drama from the investigation, an exciting product, scintillating new technology. There’s a lot of selling points and a lot of interested people to market to. And not just fans, but sponsors as well.”
The astonishing display of technology and excitement generated by the VHL has piqued the interest of a worldwide audience of not only fans but corporations and nation-states. Time will tell how the VHL handles all this newfound notoriety. Will the league continue to produce an exciting brand of hockey or will their focus shift to selling and licensing technology? Will fans remain after the novelty of the new technological discovery wears off? What other impact will this technology have on the rest of sports or the world in general? All of those questions will be answered by the passage of time. Suffice it to say that for now, hockey fans are happy with the outcome of this report and this clears the way for a very exciting season of hockey. Fans hope that excitement will continue for many seasons to come.
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