As the 2024 Olympics are fast approaching, an entrepreneur has another idea about what the motto 'faster higher stronger' could mean.
TheEnhanced Games says it's an 'alternative to' what it calls 'corrupt Olympics Games'.
Athletes competing at the Enhanced Games will be free to use performance-enhancing drugs, they won't be tested and will be under no obligation to declare which substances they have taken in order to compete.
This is a stark contrast to the doping protocol of the Olympics. Paris 2024 will have its anti-doping programme overseen by the International Testing Agency (ITA). Six years ago the International Olympic Committee, which oversees Olympics, delegated the ITA its entire clean sports program. The Olympic Games are plagued by doping scandals and kickback scandals.
The IOC refused to comment when asked by CNN Sport about the Enhanced Games or allegations of corruption.
CNN Sport interviewed a variety of experts on doping in this story. They expressed their concern that the Enhanced Games were an extremely dangerous proposition.
Dr. Grigory Rodriguez, who exposed Russia’s state-sponsored program of doping – a massive effort that lasted for years and benefited over 1,000 athletes from 2011 to 2015 – said the Enhanced Games are a 'danger' to health, sport.
The Enhanced Games may never happen, but their very concept is causing a lot of controversy among anti-doping officials.
Aron D’Souza, a businessman from California, is the man behind The Enhanced games. According to his website, he is the founding editor for 'The Journal Jurisprudence', a quarterly journal on legal philosophy.
D'Souza recently told CNN Sport that he had'signed terms sheets with prominent venture-capital firms' regarding the Enhanced Games, and is 'waiting for the lawyers to complete long-form drafting'. D'Souza also stated that an announcement of funding is scheduled for early December.
While not legally binding on either side, term sheets represent a serious statement of intent, defining the general principles of an agreement.
D'Souza says that a competition that is'science-driven' will be the next step for the sport. He believes the lack of drug testing would level the playing fields.
While data from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suggests that less than 2% of athletes dope, Raphael Faiss, Research Manager at the centre of Research and Expertise in anti-doping sciences at the University of Lausanne, told CNN Sport that the number of athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs is likely significantly higher; his research suggests the figure could be between 15 to 18%.
Faiss' team compared the blood test results of athletes collected by WADA accredited labs with values from healthy adults as well as those from doped and undetoped athletes. The closer the values were to the values of subjects who had received erythropoietin, which is a blood doping agent, the greater the likelihood that the athletes are actually doping.
Faiss explained that this analysis is not proof of drug use, but a 'robust' way to analyze the data. It allows scientists to estimate doping prevalence and to target athletes who are most likely to dope.
WADA stated in a written statement to CNN Sport that determining the level of [doping] is a WADA priority and is something that they are addressing. They explained that a "prevalence group" has been set up since 2017 to 'determine whether strategies, reliable methods, and tools can adequately assess the prevalence doping in sport.
WADA said to CNN Sport that it has given'several suggestions and guidance' to WADA, but they are not yet the final recommendations.
WADA is not happy with Faiss's study. It cites the 'complexity' of measuring [doping] and that there are 'greatly differing results'.
The anti-doping organisation added: "No single method can give a definitive prevalence number for doping across all sports, or even in a single sport discipline."
Note from the Editor: The full WADA statement can be found at the end of this article.
Travis Tygart is the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. He told CNN Sport the idea of Enhanced Games was 'farcical... probably illegal in many states [in the US]'. It's a 'dangerous clown show and not real sport'.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration classifies substances like anabolic steroids, which are used to help athletes build muscle by allowing them to train harder and recover faster from strenuous exercises.
D'Souza said to CNN Sport, "We will not be doing drug testing during the Games." When asked if anabolic steroids would be allowed and if athletes would be tested illegal drugs like cocaine.
He said: "We don't propose to regulate the equipment that athletes use."
A licensed physician may prescribe anabolic steroids to treat certain conditions, such as testosterone deficiency. However, if the drugs are used without a prescription in the US, the first offense could result in up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,000.
According to American attorney Jim Walden who represents Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, this is not the only legal risk that Enhanced Games could face.
Walden, a CNN Sport reporter, said: 'If you take a look at the Enhanced Games site, it almost seems as if they are advertising their disregard for the law.
They use phrases such as body autonomy, and come out as enhanced athletes.
I hope they are thinking about the best way to do this in a world where the FBI has an entire unit called the Sports and Gaming Initiative, which is devoted to these issues.
According to the website of the United States government, the Sports and Gaming Initiative is designed to "protect athletes and sporting organizations in the United States against criminal threats and influence."
The initiative is a partnership between sports leagues, governing bodies and international law enforcement, as well as independent watchdogs, to combat crimes like fraud, match-fixing and doping. Criminal activities, according to the initiative, "degrade integrity in sports and competition, and erode confidence in these beloved institutions."
Rodchenkov wrote to CNN that the use of substances for doping is unacceptable in modern sport.
"Promotion and advertisement of banned substances is contrary to sport rules, morals and letter and spirit.
'It could cause extreme harm to the young generations of athletes who, by mistake, believed in the benefits of [the] Enhanced Games.
Rodchenkov, who is the star of the Oscar-winning Netflix documentary Icarus and is under FBI protection at the moment, believes that the organizers of the Enhanced Games'might be investigated [...] pursuant to the Rodchenkov Act'.
The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act is named after the whistleblower and allows the US to impose a criminal sanction on those involved in doping at international sporting events.
Rodchenkov added that WADA athletes cannot have any affiliation with or contact with enhanced athletes. Otherwise, they risk being charged in accordance to Article 2.10 of the World Anti-Doping Code - "Prohibited Association by An Athlete or Another Person".
Tygart, USADA's Tygart, told CNN Sport that 'no one wants their children to grow up idolizing drug abuse in sport even if profiteers believe otherwise'
D'Souza insists that his motivation in founding Enhanced Games was not financial. D'Souza says that if he wanted to earn more money, he would have continued to be a "quiet and mild-mannered" venture capitalist.
D'Souza said, "I think that consumers and athletes both want the Enhanced Games. If you go to cinemas, nobody is interested in history anymore."
They're interested superheroes and the technology of the future. This is what we're bringing into reality.
Pierre de Coubertin, the man who founded the modern Olympics, said that sport is a great way to improve yourself.
However, in the past, some athletes have gone too far in their quest for self-improvement, most notably in London 2012 which Rodchenkov called the 'dirtiest Olympics in history'.
The ITA found 73 violations of anti-doping rules during its reanalysis of the London Games. This led to 31 medals being withdrawn and 46 medals being reallocated across athletics, weightlifting and wrestling.
The Olympics have been a source of controversy and doping throughout their history. The 100-meter final from the 1988 Games is one of the most notorious and controversial moments in sports history.
Six of the eight finalists, including the eventual winner Ben Johnson, who lined up in Seoul on that day in September 35 years ago failed drug tests or were implicated in drug abuse during their career.
According to testers, despite the fact that some athletes continue to cheat, antidoping efforts are still ongoing globally.
The Athletics Integrity Unit's (AIU's) recent data on out-of competition (OOC), testing, highlights the positive results of the steps taken to maintain a 'clean elite podiums and finals'.
The data gathered on OOC testing in the lead-up to last year's World Athletics Championships, held in Eugene, Oregon shows that resources and testing are targeted at those athletes who will be most likely win medals or make finals.
While only 39% athletes at Eugene took three or more OOCs in the 10 months prior to the event, 81% top eight finishers also had three OOCs.
The cat-and-mouse game between athletes and testers using banned substances is still ongoing.
Faiss said that it was mainly a question of timing, and targeting the correct athletes.
Athletes are regularly tested for blood values, so it's'more difficult' to use high dosages of drugs like EPO. However, they'd still be using micro-dosing.
Faiss says that athletes who are suspected of blood-doping can be tested at any time, even if they take EPO late in the evening and drink enough water.
He said that athletes are returning to simple methods of doping steroids. EPO, he added, is easy to use but difficult to detect.
Athletes "use drugs that are actively acting."
Faiss says that athletes are likely to use substances that have a short half-life, which mimic the processes of oxygen-carrying improvements through EPO channels.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Roxadustat's half-life is 10-16 hours.
Faiss said that athletes are looking for substances with a very short [half-life] to ensure they will not be detected if tested at the wrong time.
Michele Verroken is the founder director of the consultancy group Sporting Integrity. She believes that an antidoping program must be implemented to 'provide a much greater credibility and a more immediate verification of results' if we are to retain the athletes' hearts and minds.
Verroken asks what stops an athlete from cheating, if they are only caught 10 years later or never. According to the World Anti-Doping Code there is a statute of limitations for samples taken after 2015.
Verroken said to CNN Sport that the Enhanced Games are'setting a real challenge for sporting competition'
It is not surprising that many sporting bodies condemned the event. The Australian Olympic Committee described it as 'dangerous' and 'irresponsible', saying that the world needed better than this.
UK Anti-Doping said that it was 'extremely concerned' by the concept of Enhanced Games and added that 'performance enhancing drugs in sport, as well as the Enhanced Games', have no place.
Hamish Coffey is the Director of Operations for UKAD. He told CNN Sport the Enhanced Games set a 'hugely danger precedent'. He expressed concern about the message the event would send to the next generation.
D'Souza told CNN Sport that, shortly after the announcement of the proposed event, 368 athletes had enquired and many more had sent messages via social media.
Former Olympian Brett Fraser who represented the Cayman islands at three Olympic Games told CNN Sport that "very accomplished athletes" at the Olympic finalist level have reached out to learn more about the first Games and how they can get involved.
Fraser said that the Enhanced Games organizers already have a medallist from the Olympics' to be part of their athlete commission. He did not specify who this was.
He said that there was 'a great deal of positive feedback, acceptance and excitement among younger generations'. At this point, however, none of these athletes are willing to speak out publicly.
Those who want to compete can do so in the Enhanced Games, an annual event that includes five categories: track and field, weightlifting and gymnastics, as well as swimming.
It is not a secret that hosting Olympic Games can be expensive. Many countries try to make their spectacles bigger by spending more money.
Tokyo 2021 will have the largest Olympic sporting program ever, with 33 sports events in 42 venues and 339 medal events.
Covid-impacted Games delivered at a cost of $13 billion, almost twice the original forecasted $7.3 billion. In keeping with the IOC philosophy of "lower-impact Games", 95% of the venues at the Paris Olympics 2024 will be existing facilities.
D'Souza stated that the Enhanced Games would focus on fewer sports and reuse existing infrastructure. The event will be funded by the private sector in order to 'deliver a cost-efficient yet high-impact games', so that profits could be shared with athletes.
He said that the Enhanced Games are looking to offer a prize pool of seven figures for any athlete who could break Usain Bolt’s 100-meter record of 9.58 second.
D'Souza said, "I've talked to people who are among the top-10 sprinters who will be going to the Olympics next year, and they've said [...] that if there's an $1,000,000 prize for breaking the 100m World Record, I'll go there."
A 'enhanced athlete programme' will include a universal basic income for all athletes and mental health assistance.
D'Souza said to CNN Sport, "our athletes will be the most closely monitored athletes in the history of the games."
He said that he would focus on the safety of athletes by mandating pre-competition clinical screenings, including blood tests and EKGs.
This will ensure that the athletes are in good health to compete and do not face major health complications.
D'Souza said that athletes would also sign waivers to compete.
D'Souza acknowledges that the scale of the event will depend on funding and media partnership.