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Athletes risk bans, health and death in Enhanced Games – WADA

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

Athletes or support staff taking part in the Enhanced Games would be in danger of committing anti-doping rules violations and should consider the serious health risks, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Wednesday.

Aron D’Souza, a London-based Australian entrepreneur, announced last month that he has attracted big-name investors, including Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, to back his vision of an Enhanced Games where athletes, competing for themselves, are allowed to use pharmacological or technological assistance.

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

In a scathing response, WADA described the Enhanced Games as “a dangerous and irresponsible concept”.

WADA also said an Enhanced Games would be an affront to clean sport and put the lives of athletes at risk, pointing out that some have died experimenting with powerful performance-enhancers that are illegal in many countries.

D’Souza, who has likened current doping controls to the operation of a secret police force aimed at keeping athletes in fear, said the Enhanced Games would not be a complete doping free-for-all, stressing there would be “clinical control” of the athletes to ensure safety.

“The health and well-being of athletes is WADA’s number-one priority,” WADA said in an email to Reuters. “Clearly this event would jeopardize both by promoting the abuse of powerful substances and methods that should only be prescribed, if at all, for specific therapeutic needs and under the supervision of responsible medical professionals.

“As we have seen through history, performance-enhancing drugs have taken a terrible physical and mental toll on many athletes. Some have died.”

Athletes competing in an Enhanced Games should immediately be targeted for additional testing, WADA said, while calling on anti-doping organisations to test those taking part before, during and after the Games.

In an interview with Reuters, D’Souza said thousands of athletes have reached out to him about taking part and he has targeted 2025 for a full competition.

“WADA warns athletes and support personnel, who wish to participate in clean sport, that if they were to take part in the Enhanced Games, they would risk committing anti-doping rule violations under the World Anti-Doping Code,” said WADA.

“Athletes serve as role models and WADA believes this proposed event would send the wrong signal to young people around the world.”

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