Caitlin Bassett: Enhanced Games will be a ‘freak show’ that James Magnussen should not dive into

Caitlin Bassett
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Drug cheats have no place in sport.
Drug cheats have no place in sport. Credit: Will Pearce

Do you want to be the most famous athlete in the world? That’s the line organisers of the Enhanced Games are using to lure participants to take part in their freak show - that and the millions in prize money they promise to shower them in.

Proposed by Australian entrepreneur Aron D’Souza, the Enhanced Games is pitching itself as “a better version of the Olympics”, encouraging athletes to take performance enhancing drugs in order to break world records.

According to the organisers behind the games (already rich men with the backing of even richer investors) athletes have been oppressed by not being allowed to embrace the full potential of science in sport.

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The premise that clean athletes have had their athletic ability stifled by not taking performance enhancing drugs is laughable — and is spoken like someone who doesn’t understand the mentality of elite sport.

Using performance enhancing drugs is taking the easy way out and nothing good ever comes easy.

The Enhanced Games is clearly a competition for former athletes to cash in and stay relevant or B grade athletes who were never good enough in the first place.

As a staunch advocate of clean sport I found the statements on their website wild. There is a page celebrating athletes who have had world records revoked stating that they have suffered ‘unfair reputational damage’ and commending them for ‘enduring bravery in the face of oppression’.

I worry about the impact this will have on young kids who are bombarded with messages that being rich and famous trumps hard work and a fair play — that life is about winning at all costs.

The argument that James Magnussen isn’t harming anyone by doing this to his body is untrue. If he wasn’t a former world champion I would have no problem, but the fact is that when he represented Australia he became a role model for all young people. Now he is telling us he wants to “juice to the gills”.

Australian Sports Commission CEO and olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Kieren Perkins at the National Press Club in Canberra, Wednesday, October 5, 2022. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Kieren Perkins has spoken out against the Enhanced Games. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Former Olympic legend and current Australian Sports Commission boss Kieren Perkins has been vocal in his opposition of the games.

“The impact isn’t just on the individual, the impact is on potential generations, so there’s a high level of ignorance and selfishness that comes with it,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more and believe the organisers are underestimating the affect the games will have on young children aspiring to be future Olympians.

The win-at-all-costs mentality is something that doesn’t sit well with me and in modern sport we have begun to celebrate the athletes who show vulnerability and imperfection.

Movies like Rocky, Cool Runnings and Coach Carter are popular because while winning is awesome, success does not ultimately define the worth of a person or team.

That’s what I ultimately believe breaking a record at the Enhanced Games will be — a shallow victory.

MONT VENTOUX, FRANCE - JULY 21:  Lance Armstrong of the USA and US Postal Service team climbs the last few kilometers of the Mont Ventoux to finish in  third place in the stage and continued dominance of the leaders yellow jersey during stage 14 of the 2002 Tour De France on July 21th, 2002 from Lodeve to Mont Ventoux . (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace highlights why drugs have no place in sport. Credit: Mike Powell/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong was once the most celebrated athlete in the world, his seven consecutive Tour de France wins made him one of the most iconic and revered athletes in the world.

The respect he held instantly evaporated once it was revealed he admitted to doping, his sponsors dropped him, his reputation was ruined.

Beating Usain Bolts 100m sprint record by taking performance enhancing drugs shouldn’t be seen as an achievement, it’s actually meaningless. You took drugs, and the easy way out to achieve something another person did though pure talent, dedication and years hard work.

The only thing I believe the Enhanced Games are promoting is that fame and fortune trump hard work and dedication.

Money talks and while these games will probably go ahead, I will not be interested in watching. As a sports journalist who one day dreams of covering an Olympic Games — an opportunity never afforded to me as an athlete — I don’t want to play a part in glorifying athletes who are happy to take the easy way out for the right sum.

What’s more important — fame or integrity? There is no shame in not making it if you try your guts out, failure is character building.

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