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Enhanced Games out to disrupt ‘old, slow’ Olympics with doped up athletes

file photo: magnussen of australia is seen underwater as he swims in the men's 100m freestyle final during the 2014 commonwealth games in glasgow
Retired world champion swimmer James Magnussen agreed to take banned performance-enhancing drugs to make an attempt at beating Cesar Cielo's 15-year-old 50 metres sprint world record for $1 million

Aron D’Souza believes he is about to join the ranks of the great entrepreneurial disruptors through his Enhanced Games which targets the “hypocritical, corrupt and dysfunctional” Olympic Games.

The Enhanced Games will allow athletes to use substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) — in D’Souza’s words “performance medicine technology” — to give them the opportunity “to push the limits of humanity”.

Last week, D’Souza landed a major coup when retired world champion swimmer James Magnussen agreed to take banned performance-enhancing drugs to make an attempt at beating Cesar Cielo’s 15-year-old 50 metres sprint world record for $1 million.

“We want athletes who have the potential to break world records and we’re going to really focus on those best athletes and pay them well,” the Enhanced Games President told Reuters in an interview.

“I do have some current national and world record holders who are ready to jump ship because, I’ll be honest, it was hard before James because dealing with these athletes who are so cagey, they’re so worried about their reputation.”

The London-based Australian announced last month that he had attracted big name investors in Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, tech investor Christian Angermayer and former Coinbase Chief Technology Officer Balaji Srinivasan.

D’Souza’s vision is of a Games where athletes, competing for themselves and not their countries, are allowed to use pharmacological or technological assistance to achieve the best results they can and be richly rewarded for it.

“It’s so important to us to pay the athletes right. Excellence deserves to be rewarded. And it’s so unfortunate that athletes have been exploited for so long, but I can feel a real inflection point here,” he added.

“My billionaire investors are really the first people to call out the hypocrisy of the Olympics, or the corruption, the dysfunction, the lies, and I think the world is taking notice and seeing that there’s a better model of international sports.”

In a statement to Reuters, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said: “The idea of the Enhanced Games does not merit any comment.

“If you want to destroy any concept of fair play and fair competition in sport, this would be a good way to do it,” it continued.

“Worse than that, no parent would ever wish to see their child competing in such a damaging format in which performance-enhancing drugs are a central part of the concept.

“Furthermore, the idea of ‘sovereign individuals’, as promoted by the supporters of these Enhanced Games, means that there are no accepted rules or values. This is completely at odds with the idea and values of the Olympic Games.”

Despite a raft of IOC reforms in recent years, D’Souza told Reuters the Olympics still featured too many sports that “don’t really matter” and too much money was spent on constructing venues that went unused after the Games.

The Enhanced Games would start with only individual events in core sports, while team sports — football, basketball — would be added in later editions as the format is honed and improved.

TIMELINES ACCELERATED

Exactly when and where D’Souza’s vision will be realised, however, remains very much in the planning stage.

“Originally, the plan was to have qualifying starting after the Paris Olympics and then that would take about six months and then the full produced games in mid 2025,” he said.

“However, because of James’s announcement and the thousands of athletes who have reached out to me … it accelerates all of our timelines.”

D’Souza likened the current doping controls to the operation of a secret police force aimed at keeping athletes in fear.

“That’s how they control the athletes and that’s how the bureaucrats keep the lion’s share of the money,” he said.

The Enhanced Games would not be a complete doping free-for-all, however, with D’Souza stressing there would be “clinical control” of the athletes as they prepared for events to ensure safety.

Not everyone is convinced, and Travis Tygart of the United States Anti-Doping Agency last year describing the Enhanced Games as a “dangerous clown show”.

D’Souza is not short of pithy ways to describe how he sees the relationship between the Enhanced Games and the Olympics — rock ‘n’ roll to opera, Netflix to Blockbuster, Uber to taxis.

Like those earlier disruptors, he was happy to accept the brickbats of those who do not share his vision.

“They derided me as a joke, right?” he said. “Now I have two billionaires who have backed this project, I have many more who are trying to throw more money at it.

“I have some of the best athletes in the world. And when we break all the world records, who’s going to want to watch the old, slow Olympics?”

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