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What are the Enhanced Games? Billionaire Peter Thiel backs new competition labelled ‘doping-legal Olympics’

Throughout its storied history, no issue has plagued the Olympic Games more than doping; athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to gain a competitive advantage. 

From sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones, to swimmer Sun Yang, and even a state-sanctioned Russian doping program, athletes taking PEDs have long been a focal point of the Olympics, eager to level the playing field as much as physically possible. 

But one group of people has decided they want to level that playing field in a different direction – by allowing athletes to take as many PEDs as they want. 

Cue The Enhanced Games, a.k.a the Doping Olympics, an international sporting competition in which the use of PEDs is not just permitted, but encouraged. 

Billionaire Peter Thiel backs Enhanced Games 

Initially proposed in early 2023, the concept of the Enhanced Games came from an Australian named Aron D’Souza, a venture capitalist and current president of the private company behind the Games. 

Proposed by D’Souza, the Games will permit not just the use of PEDs, but also currently panned performance technology such as currently-banned running shoes, and the infamous swimming ‘super suits’. 

Since its inception last year, the Enhanced Games has collected an impressive array of investors, but it may have landed its white whale, with billionaire co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel announcing in late January that he would also be investing. 

Thiel joins former CTO of Coinbase Balaji Srinivasan, and a biotech investor Christian Angermayer in the investors circle of the Enhanced Games, providing a clear path for the first edition of the games to be held. 

According to the New York Post, Thiel will provide more details on his investment in mid-April, while D’Souza told the publication that the sum was “enough to produce the first games.”

When is the first Enhanced Games?

According to founder D’Souza, the inaugural Enhanced Games are aiming to be held in mid-2025, despite initially aiming for December 2024. 

Currently, it seems that registration for the first Games will open later this year, with a precise date for the event not yet confirmed. 

The Enhanced Games will be open to athletes of all levels, but will aim to prioritise the health and wellbeing of all who compete, according to the event’s official website.

“Whether you are natural, adaptive, or enhanced, an amateur or a former Olympian, you will be eligible to apply to compete in the first Enhanced Games,” the site says.

“In order to keep our athletes safe during competition, we are introducing a mandated pre-competition full-system medical screening protocol, which will help monitor cardiac risks, and other health markers.

“By embracing science and not drug-testing, athletes competing in the Enhanced Games will be able to use medicine and performance therapies that help them perform at their best, on an open, fair, and honest playing field.”

Where will the Enhanced Games be held?

While no location has been confirmed for the first-ever Enhanced Games, the competition aimed to utilise pre-existing infrastructure, as opposed to the Olympic Games which require newly-built facilities. 

According to the event’s site, the games were designed so that they were able to be held at a Division One university campus if necessary.

Which sports will feature at the Enhanced Games?

The Enhanced Games will feature a slimmed-down offering of sports in comparison to the Olympic Games, with the decision made to remove team sports and focus solely on individual efforts. 

Instead, events will be held across five categories: athletics, aquatics, combat, gymnastics, and strength, similar to the Olympic individual events. 

President D’Souza has said that over 900 athletes have already expressed their interest in competing in the inaugural games.

Enhanced Games athletes offered base salary, prize money to compete

Aside from the obvious, one key difference between the Olympic Games and the proposed Enhanced Games is that athletes competing in the latter will reportedly be handsomely compensated for their efforts. 

While the Olympics is a mostly not-for-profit event that only sees athletes compensated if they claim a medal, every single Enhanced Games athlete will be offered a base salary to compete. 

Athletes will also compete for cash rewards in their respective sports, as well as for the chance at glory and the opportunity to push the bounds of human physiology. 

“By focusing on world records in popular sports such as track and field, swimming, gymnastics, weight lifting and combat sports, we can eliminate wasteful infrastructure spending and reinvest to fairly pay all athletes,” D’Souza said.

This compensation package is no doubt alluring to many athletes who compete in underfunded sports, and it makes the backing of billionaire Thiel even more crucial to the game’s potential, funding coming from the man whose fortune comes as a result of early investments in companies such as PayPal and Facebook, and who was partly behind the fall of media outlet Gawker.

Criticism of the Enhanced Games 

As could be expected, there has been a significant backlash to the idea of the Enhanced Games, with many labeling it as dangerous. 

Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) described the event to CNN as “A dangerous clown show, not real sport,” while former Australian Olympic gold medalist and current Australian chef de mission Anna Meares also questioned the event’s safety.

“It’s a joke, to be honest,” Meares told the Guardian. 

“Unfair, unsafe — I just don’t think this is the right way to go about sport.”

Other critics of the Enhanced Games include Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, Russian doping whistleblower and subject of the documentary ‘Icarus’, who called the event a “danger to health, to sport,” while the current head of World Athletics Lord Sebastian Coe recently said that “No one within athletics takes the Enhanced Games seriously.”

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