While the sports industry and the Olympics have worked hard to purge performance-enhancing drugs, a new organization backed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel wants to let athletes dope.
The Enhances Games is the creation of lawyer Aron D’Souza, known for leading Peter Thiel’s lawsuit against Gawker Media in 2013.
“We want to end the oppression of science in sports and let human potential reach its maximum,” D’Souza told Decrypt in an interview. “Science has been used all throughout our society to advance our skill, productivity, and capabilities, but it has been excluded from sports by the International Olympic Committee. So, let’s see what humanity is truly capable of.”
Others joining Thiel in backing the Enhanced Games include Apeiron Investment Group founder Christian Angermayer and former chief technology officer of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Balaji Srinivasan.
“We are very focused on pharmacological enhancements now,” D’Souza said. “Whether that be steroids, testosterone, or other supplementation or therapeutic regimes we want to allow athletes to use any medical technology that can be delivered with clinical supervision in a safe and effective manner to extend their capabilities.”
Apart from a report in the New York Post on Thursday, only some information is available on the event. D’Souza said he plans to reveal further details about the Enhanced Games later this year.
“The launch of [Enhanced Games] will be at the Paris Olympics in July of this year, where we will be supporting enhanced athletes,” D’Souza said.
According to D’Souza, 44% of elite track and field athletes admit to using banned performance enhancements, with only 1% getting caught.
A December 2022 report by online health clinic Invigor Medical said the percentage of adult elite athletes ranged between 14% and 39%, with three to four million performance-enhancing drug users being in the United States.
The inaugural Enhanced Games will feature swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, track and field, as well as Boxing and MMA.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) first banned performance-enhancing drugs in 1968. Following the IOC, other sports organizations began to test and issue suspensions for banned substances, including steroids. The National Football League (NFL) began suspending players for steroid use in 1989.
But D’Souza says he does not want to be the anti-IOC but a progression toward a science-based future for sports.
“The Olympics are all about the past, they’re about Ancient Greece,” D’Souza said. “They’re about this natural sports ethos, and they’re stuck in the past. We’re about the future, science, and progress. We’re about acceleration.”
While critics may say allowing athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs gives an unfair advantage, D’Souza says the Enhanced Games are about testing for safety, not fairness.
“[Athletes] can take whatever they want, as long as it’s clinically supervised—as long as they are within health parameters,” he said, for example, not having an enlarged heart or an irregular arrhythmia, that could signal a risk of a heart attack.
D’Souza pointed to the group’s clinical advisory board, which includes Professor George Church, the chairman of genetics at Harvard University, Dr. Michael Stagner from King’s College London, and Biotechnology & Bioscience expert Dr. Julia Conney.
“These are some of the best clinicians and scientists in the world, and they are supporting this project because they see this as a way that we will unleash human potential.”
D’Souza said the Enhanced Games aims to give athletes the option to compete on the natural side or the ‘Enhance’ side, as well as give an option to consumers to want to watch something interesting, bold, edgy, and different or to watch a version of wrestling practice like the ancients, like collegiate wrestling.
The Enhanced Games, D’Souza explained, will be open to athletes worldwide regardless of the political climate surrounding their home countries.
“All athletes have the right to be political and also the right not to be politicized,” he said. “And so we’ve made the decision that athletes will be competing for themselves, at least at the first Enhanced Games.”
D’Souza said he wants to make qualifying for the Enhanced Games as seamless as possible, saying that athletes wanting to participate can upload a video of them running on a treadmill or doing a box job and can qualify to compete at games with regional qualifiers coming later in 2024 and the inaugural games in 2025.
D’Souza highlighted how advancements in technology like generative AI are continually pushing the boundaries of what we perceive as possible and how this could apply to other fields, including sports, longevity, and gaming, in the future.
“Imagine a 60-year-old breaking a track and field world record or a 60-year-old in a Swimming World Record,” D’Souza said. “What’s going to happen is the moment those records are getting broken, the world will be watching, and everyone will say, ‘What is he on, and how do I get it?’ It will create a Sputnik moment.”
D’Souza acknowledged that this hypothesis may sound like science fiction or the fountain of youth; he added that it was not that long ago that artificial intelligence was also considered science fiction.
“AI was science fiction just five years ago, and you only need one moment, ChatGPT, and it’s all real,” D’Souza noted.
While experiments in longevity may still seem like science fiction, D’Souza said that the Enhanced Games and continuing experiments and investments into space will make longevity a reality.
The quest for immortality has led to many extreme experiments, including chemical cocktails that aim to reverse aging, biohacking clubs, and penile Botox injections meant to enhance virility.
Last summer, billionaire Bryan Johnson shocked social media after posting on Twitter he was using shockwave treatment on his genitals. Little did the world know, this was the first of many biohacking experiments the entrepreneur would announce.
Johnson has spent over $4 million pursuing a long, healthy, and hopefully younger life. Other experiments included swapping plasma with his father and son, respectively, as well as the aforementioned Botox injections.
While longevity experiments may grab headlines, D’Souza said a misconception he wants to dispel is that performance-enhancing drugs are dangerous in and of themselves.
“Performance enhancements can be used safely, and have the potential to unlock a positive future for humanity,” he said. “The compounds that are used to make athletes run faster and jump higher are the same compounds that will make us younger, faster, and stronger for longer.”
The opportunity D’Souza continued is that aging, which he called a disease, can be treated, cured, and eventually solved.
“The field of performance medicine is essential to that quest,” he said.
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.