David Sharpe.
Australian sport's anti-doping chief David Sharpe has hit out at plans for a drugs-test-free Games. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
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Enhanced Games grossly irresponsible: anti-doping chief

Steve Larkin February 10, 2024

Australian sport’s anti-doping chief has slammed an Olympic-style event with no drug testing as “grossly irresponsible” while warning of severe ramifications for athletes taking part.

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) chief executive David Sharpe is accusing Enhanced Games organisers of putting profit before health.

Sharpe has delivered a broad warning to Australian athletes that they risk being frozen out of organised sport if they participate in the Enhanced Games.

“The use of performance-enhancing substances poses an unacceptable health risk to athletes,” Sharpe said on Saturday.

“And SIA considers the promotion of the use of such substances through the Enhanced Games to be grossly irresponsible.”

James Magnussen
 Three-time Olympic medallist James Magnussen has pledged to compete at next year’s Enhanced Games. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

Australia’s dual world champion swimmer and triple Olympic medallist James Magnussen is the first athlete in the world to publicly pledge to compete at the Enhanced Games.

The multi-sport event with no drug testing, founded by Australian entrepreneur Aron D’Souza, has promised Magnussen $1.54 million if he can break the world 50 metres freestyle record at next year’s inaugural Enhanced Games.

Sharpe, while not directly mentioning Magnussen, warned Australian athletes of harsh consequences if they competed at the event.

“Australian athletes have historically demonstrated high levels of integrity and this undermines decades of commitment from Australian athletes and their sports to clean and fair sport,” he said.

“Athletes participating in the Enhanced Games may find themselves unable to participate in recognised sporting events in any capacity, including as a coach or administrator and not just as an athlete.”

Sharpe also warned Australian athletes that associated in a sport-related context with anyone who uses performance-enhancing drugs broke the world anti-doping code.

“It is critically important that we all ensure the health and wellbeing of athletes is not jeopardised,” said Sharpe, who heads SIA, an Australian government executive agency which brings together operations of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the National Integrity of Sport unit.

“Profit should not be prioritised over health,” he said.

“We want our young athletes, no matter their race, gender, socio-economic or other backgrounds to know that by working hard and getting the most out of their talent in a healthy way they can be the future Australian athletes at a home Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“We don’t want our young athletes to be taking shortcuts through the use of performance-enhancing substances.”

Aron D'Souza.
 The Enhanced Games are the brainchild of Melbourne-born businessman Aron D’Souza. Image by HANDOUT/SUPPLIED 

D’Souza, founder and president of Enhanced Games, said he expected dozens of Australian athletes to follow Magnussen’s “heroic, courageous first step”.

“I have no doubt now that James has done this publicly there will be dozens, hundreds of athletes,” D’Souza told AAP on Friday.

D’Souza promised $US1 million ($A1.54m) to Magnussen or the first swimmer breaking the 50m freestyle world record, and to the first sprinter to better Usain Bolt’s 100m global benchmark on the track.

Breaking any world record at the Enhanced Games would not be officially ratified given the event won’t have drug testing.

Melbourne-born, London-based D’Souza has two billionaries – Peter Thiel and Christian Angermayer – and multi-millionaire Balaji Srinivasan as financial backers.

Swimming and diving are among the disciplines on the Enhanced Games schedule, along with track and field athletics, weightlifting, gymnastics, and combat sports.

D’Souza is in negotiations with global television networks and streaming outlets, while venues around the world are pitching to host the Games.

Up to seven qualifying events will be staged this December around the world, including Australia, with the inaugural Games slated for the middle of next year.