Enhanced Games is the latest bro-invention by tech men

Drug-friendly competition Enhanced Games is the latest bro-invention by tech men


Feminist writer Rebecca Solnit recently wrote in the London Review of Books, “Many tech billionaires do not believe they should be bound by the laws of nations or biology.”

In the piece, where she mourns the cultural-annihilation San Francisco has faced since the birth of Big Tech, she quotes PayPal founder Peter Thiel who wrote in 2009, “I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives and the ideology of the inevitability of death of every individual.” 

Thiel recently demonstrated his libertarian agendas by signing on as an investor in the privately funded drug-friendly sports contest, The Enchanted Games.

The competition, which describes itself as “the modern reinvention of the Olympic Games that does not have drug testing,” is headed by Aron D’Souza, Thiel’s former lawyer. The backers of The Enchanted Games believe athletes should be allowed, encouraged even, to use every advantage they can to secure success: they should take as much performance enhancement drugs as they want — all in the name of becoming better, stronger, faster. They believe that banning performance enhancements is stifling scientific innovation. 

The Games will not test athletes for drugs or any performance enhancers at its events, because it “embra[ces] ways science and technology can enhance human performance,” D’Souza, president of the Enhanced Games, said in the statement. 

“The Enhanced Movement believes in the medical and scientific process of elevating humanity to its full potential, through community of committed athletes.”

“[We] see the vision of a new model of sports, that openly celebrates scientific innovation and honestly represents the use of performance enhancements in sports today.” 

The Games will focus on individual sports across athletics, aquatics, combat, gymnastics and strength. 

“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. 

“In the era of accelerating technological and scientific change, the world needs a sporting event that embraces the future, particularly advances in medical science.” 

But what’s really going on here? Who are the people behind this contest? And what are they really trying to do? 

It’s a men’s club

The Enchanted Games is backed by the world’s richest venture capitalists. We have Peter Thiel, the conservative tech billionaire and founder of companies such as Palantir, which monitors immigrants for the Department of Homeland Security in the US. Thiel has had a long history of defying public safety and policy regulations. He was also one of the early investors of Facebook. 

There’s Christian Angermayer, founder of Apeiron Investment Group — a private investment company with a biotech portfolio that includes Atai Life Science, who are currently developing a rapid-acting anti-depressant for home use. Atai has backing from Thiel. 

Angermayer is a big name in the psychedelic industry — he’s been open about how taking mushrooms since 2015 has changed the course of his life. 

He described The Enhanced Games as having “forward-thinking ethos”, and one that “…improves the safety and fairness of competition but also stimulates scientific breakthroughs and nurtures human advancement.”

“The Enhanced games will undoubtedly inspire the public’s imagination and reinforce the profound impact of science on human progress,” he said in a statement. 

Then we have Balaji Srinivasan, a cryptocurrency investor and former CTO of Coinbase, who has been described as a polymath and angel investor who believes that tech has the power to eventually initiate a nation-free world. 

Out of the eleven individuals on the leadership team, there’s one woman — Jodhi Ramsden-Mavric, who is listed as a creative assistant, and who has a background in the film industry. The six people on the company’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Commission come from various backgrounds, including a Harvard professor, a co-founder of OxWash (sustainable commercial laundry service-providers) and a naturopathic doctor. Two are women.

Thomas Rex Dolan, the 19-year old Victorian and Gen Z Party founder and president, is listed as head of executive operations. According to his LinkedIn page, Dolan is D’Souza’s godson. 

The Athletes Advisory Commission consists of five men and just one woman. On the games website, it explains that they “embrace[s] the inclusion of science in sports” and is “unencumbered by anachronistic legacy systems.”

I wonder how they can do this with an organisation that clearly lacks the most basic form of diversity?

Sketchy on the details 

Since the games started making headlines last month, many people have been left scratching their heads. The organisation hasn’t been clear about some details. 

For one, it has declared that it will pay the athletes who compete in the games, but it hasn’t said exactly how much. 

Athletes will be paid a base salary and will compete for additional prize money. According to the website, a prize pool and compensation model will be announced later this year. 

Who gets to compete?

Calling themselves the “most inclusive sports league in history,” the organisers said all adults are eligible to compete in the games regardless of whether they are “natural, adaptive, or enhanced, an amateur or a former Olympian.” 

Registration is set to open later this year, though the actual dates for the contest have not been announced. 

It’s dangerous for the athletes 

The Games insist they will be the “safest international sporting event in history” and will ensure every athlete undergoes full medical screenings to monitor any risks.

But critics believe the competition’s agenda will risk both athletes’ health and sport itself. Two experts from the University of Canberra feared that athletes will turn into “injectable avatars” who will endanger their health by taking medicines that have been approved for human use.

“There’s no shortage of evidence demonstrating the dangers of pharmaceutical abuse for performance enhancement, let alone what might happen when used in experimental combinations and dosages,” Professor Catherine Ordway said last week.

“Elite sport is not conducted on a level playing field. Access to money, knowledge, power and technology already gives some athletes an edge over others, and the Enhanced Games would exacerbate these inequalities.”

Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), called the games “farcical,” and that it would be “a dangerous clown show, not real sport.” 

Jamie Crain, CEO of Sports Medicine Australia, took aim at the games’ PR material, which runs on the “anything is possible with science” ideology, pitting “science” as the gateway towards human progress and excellence.

“Science is the process of experimenting and observing and recording results and adjusting accordingly to get a certain outcome or just to understand a topic,” Crain told the ABC.

“And in this context that means they’re going to be giving otherwise fit people experimental substances to see what the outcomes is in the hope it might make them faster or stronger. Is that good science? If it produces a fast athlete who ends up with medical complications down the line, you would argue, no, it is not good science.”

Former Olympic swimmer Kieren Perkins said he could not see “any responsible and ethical person thinking the Enhance Games is even remotely sensible”.

“As soon as you start to go down the murky slope of allowing these sorts of drugs to be involved in the system you are completely setting aside the athlete’s physical and mental wellbeing and prioritising commercial gains and that’s not a place we want to be,” Perkins, now the CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, said.

Last week, retired Olympic swimming medalist James Magnussen announced he would compete in The Enhanced Games to try to break the 50m record for a reported $1.6 million. 

His reason? Money. 

“To be completely transparent, the money is a huge part,” he told News Corp. “A $1.6 million Australian dollar prize is hard to ignore.”

They’re out to make money

The carefully worded PR materials from the games’ website spruce their mission to enhance the “the medical and scientific process of elevating humanity to its full potential.”

But clearly, when you’ve got the world’s richest men backing this, it’s clear the end game is generating money. According to some media reports, D’Souza has plans to hold the games annually and stream it on platforms like YouTube to garner revenue. 


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