Aussie swim star to compete at drug-taking Games

Australian swimmer James Magnussen is happy to end his retirement to compete at the Enhanced Games.

Australian swimmer James Magnussen is happy to end his retirement to compete at the Enhanced Games. Photo: Getty

Dozens of Australian sportspeople will soon follow retired swimmer James Magnussen in pledging to compete at an Olympic-styled event for drug-takers, organisers say.

Magnussen is the first athlete in the world to publicly commit to the Enhanced Games, founded by Australian entrepreneur Aron D’Souza.

The dual world freestyle world champion and triple Olympic medallist has been promised $1.5 million if he can break the 50-metre freestyle world record at next year’s inaugural Enhanced Games.

“I have kept myself in reasonable shape in retirement,” Magnussen told the Hello Sport Podcast.

“They (Enhanced Games) have said they have a billion-dollar person backing them.

“If they put up a million dollars for the 50 freestyle world record, I will come on board as their first athlete.

“I’ll juice to the gills and I’ll break it in six months.”

Magnussen, who retired from competitive swimming in 2019, is being hailed by D’Souza for taking “the heroic, courageous first step”.

“An Australian swimmer, the most important sport in the Australian psyche … I am just so proud that it’s another fellow Aussie,” D’Souza told AAP on Friday.

More Australians were among other athletes already contacting Enhanced Games to follow Magnussen’s lead, he said.

“I have no doubt now that James has done this publicly there will be dozens, hundreds of athletes,” D’Souza said.

“My phone is blowing up. I imagine by Monday morning we will have thousands of athletes (globally) ready to line up.”

He promised $US1 million ($1.54m) to Magnussen or any swimmer breaking the 50m freestyle world record, and to the first sprinter to break Usain Bolt’s 100m global benchmark.

Breaking any world record at the Enhanced Games would not be ratified as official given the multi-sports event won’t have drug testing.

Melbourne-born, London-based D’Souza on January 30 announced two billionaries – Peter Thiel and Christian Angermayer – and multi-millionaire Balaji Srinivasan as financial backers of Enhanced Games.

But D’Souza said gaining the financial backing paled with Magnussen’s public pledge.

“This is probably one of the most important moments of my life … a whole new chapter has opened,” he said.

“Even securing millions of dollars in funding from some of the wealthiest people in the world for this audacious concept didn’t feel like this.

“Just to have someone, a real hero, a global icon … agree to do this, was just unbelievable.

“It’s a step change. It’s going to make everything bigger and more exciting.”

Swimming and diving are among disciplines on the Enhanced Games schedule with track and field athletics, weightlifting, gymnastics and combat sports.

D’Souza is in negotiations with global television networks and streaming outlets, while venues around the world are pitching to host the Games criticised by Olympic officials as dangerous.

Up to seven qualifying events will be staged this December around the world, including Australia.

“We’re really just so pleased that social attitudes can change so quickly,” D’Souza said.

“One year ago you couldn’t even talk about performance enhancements publicly, certainly in Australia.

“And now, the world’s media is talking about it … you see on Twitter people saying this is the most exciting thing to happen to sports since UFC.

“The financial implications of that are significant, but the cultural implications are even greater.”


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