The Memo: The Enhanced Games: the drug-fuelled 'Olympics' causing a sporting and scientific storm

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The Enhanced Games: the drug-fuelled 'Olympics' causing a sporting and scientific storm

James Westmacott - 13 May 2024

Pushing your body to its absolute limit in pursuit of discovering the limits of what is humanly possible is the raison d’être for elite athletes all over the world. Except, the outright depths of what the human body can achieve has never truly been tested. Global sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, and lesser sport-specific competitions have always maintained rigorous rules when it comes to doping, ensuring all athletes are only squeezing out every physical inch within the confines of what is naturally possible. That is, without any performance-enhancing substances. But what would a sporting competition look like if doping was allowed? 

Enter the Enhanced Games, the drug-friendly sporting competition that permits doping for the athletes who are determined to blow records out of the water. Whilst sports such as athletics, swimming and cycling have all developed difficult relationships with doping over the years, here is an event that actually permits it. Take as many drugs as you like, shatter all the world records, and enjoy being at the forefront of scientific discoveriesthat’s how its proponents view it at least. Described as a drug-free-for-all, supporters argue that the world will finally see the dizzy heights the human body can reach, allowing people to achievmind-boggling things you thought weren’t possible. Prepare to be amazed.  

But for its critics, it’s difficult to see what the actual point of this is. To these groups, taking such physiological risks in the name of achieving an arbitrary number simply seems unnecessary. Is knocking minutes off swimming’s 800m Freestyle world record time something we really need to be doing? Of all the most pressing issues facing the planet right now, that probably isn’t it. More seriously, though, many deem this sporting venture unsafe in the extreme. This is largely due to the fact that many of these substances haven’t successfully made it through clinical trials and are linked to longer-term defects such as tumours and cancers. Meanwhile, short-term effects of steroid use, for example, include heart palpitations, loss of vision, heightened anxiety, or even strokes and baldness. 

As a result, the legal implications of such a competition leave many doubting that the Games will even take place. Although many performance-enhancing substances have become legal with a prescription, there remain hundreds of prohibited methods and substances as outlined by the World Anti-Doping Agency. More common recreational drugs used throughout the Games also come with their own issues of legality. But the man behind the idea, Australian tech businessman Aron D’Souza – who was actually a law student at Oxford University – remains convinced it’ll all go ahead. It's a fascinating story, and one that touches on sports, politics, ethics, and the law. Ultimately, it’s fair to say the Games scheduled for 2025 have caused a great philosophical storm.