Why James The Missile Magnussen’s $1m “Freak Show” Would Hoist The Enhanced Games On Its Own Petard

2024-02-08 No comments Reading Time: 5 minutes
James Magnussen of Australia - by Patrick B. Kraemer
James Magnussen of Australia - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Editorial – James Magnussen, the World 100m freestyle champion of 2011 and 2013, with Olympic silver in between, retired a while back but when he heard there’s a billionaire out there backing what the former Aussie sprinter calls a “freak show”, he got in touch with the Enhanced Games, and they all came up with a plan to shoot themselves in the foot.

Bang! If the gun ever goes off, the “freak show” would look something like this:

  1. James takes medical advice from a doctor willing to prescribe drugs developed to heal the sick but that are not required by an athlete for the treatment and cure of a medical condition
    NB: James sounds like he would need to go on a steep learning curve: “I don’t know heaps about it [doping] to be honest. I think you just go the pure testosterone. Pump your levels up to a superhuman level and then turn into a freak show.”
  2. James juices up for as long as it takes him to get back in shape and then build a body that he would not only want to squeeze into a shiny suit of the kind banned since January 2010 but one that would be beefed beyond the borders of his natural capacities and yet somehow retain the lean-mean muscle so useful to him in his days of winning ways as a clean athlete of the kind Enhanced Games seem to suggest don’t exist (winners who don’t take drugs)
    NB: James confirms he understands the muscle type required for swimming when he tells the Hello Sport podcast: “I’m going to need one of those supersuits to float me. If I get unbelievably jacked, I am going to sink. Juice and a suit, happy days. I don’t know heaps about it [doping] to be honest. I think you just go the pure testosterone. Pump your levels up to a superhuman level and then turn into a freak show.”
  3. James sets off on his Mission Impossible: to break “The World Record” of 20.91 in the 50m freestyle.
    NB: Why impossible? Because he’s juice to the gills and is therefore ineligible for the world record.
  4. Bulked up folk likely to be past their prime or not at all interested in ever making the Olympic Games and competing clean and fair for their countries in International waters, take their marks not only for money and…

And what? Lifetime guarantees that the organisers will cover all private medical bills for health complications or death duties resulting from side effects of enhancements of the kind that diminish life and quality of life?

Anyone who thinks that a stretch of any kind should travel to Germany and ask those who competed for the GDR about the experiences that led to criminal trials and state compensation being paid out through a victims organisation set up to deal with a trail of woe stretching to the birth of children with disabilities and sex change operations.

Or will the organisers simply waive all risks away by asking the enhanced to sign an “at my own risk” waiver?

“The Enhanced Games aims to be the safest international sporting event in history,” the EG website boasts in sentiments not far removed from those expressed by the GDR’s chief doping doctor Manfred Höppner, a convicted criminal, when he excused himself in a Stern Magazine article in November 1990 and talked about how well all the athletes had been looked after, as described in Unfair Play, by Sharron Davies and this author.

He led a program that doped an estimated 15,000 athletes, even though their own research confirmed that they not only knew the serious risks to health, particularly among women, and decided to look the other way.

Of course, the EG makes no secret of its mission to embrace doping – and perhaps all the medical folk signed up are happy to give a cast-iron guarantee that no harm will ever come to any of the athletes.

The answers to many such questions might already be out there in Enhanced Games land as it plans to reveal a wage structure for its “freak show”. Frankly, I don’t care what the answers are because there’s not a satisfactory response to be had in any of it in my opinion.

Melbourne-born, London-based businessman Aron D’Souza is behind the plan to start what in the Olympic realm would be considered a league of cheats but outside it would widely be regarded in the terms Magnussen used: a freak show in which performance-enhancing drugs are permitted. The plan is financially backed by billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The EG website includes some claims that are highly questionable, such as “These terms have been reclaimed in recent years, and are becoming increasingly used, particularly by younger athletes, as an empowering way of describing oneself.”

How young would they be? It’s an important question because the EG could even find itself excluded from some countries on legal grounds. It’s a criminal offence in Germany, for example, to supply drugs to minors (under 18, which in a sport like swimming means many of the very best) if they do not require those drugs purely on medical grounds.

So, back to James, who tells the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Tom Decent: “If they came to the party with $1 million for the [50m freestyle] world record, I would 100 per cent do it. It has to be for that big money though. Without it, I’m not putting my body through that. I’m semi serious.”

Now 32, Magnussen spoke to the Hello Sport Podcast (From 1hr 16 in under ‘Steroid Olympics”). One of the presenters reckoned the EG would not attract the best and would be mainly for “losers” and athletes who even when enhanced would be “nowhere near” the best of clean and when not enhanced would not be competitive with the best of clean competing off their own steam, so to speak.

Magnussen tells the podcast:

“I’m a couple of years out of retirement now. I’ve kept myself in reasonable shape in retirement. They’ve 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. You can’t teach talent to a swimmer and then juice them up. You’ve got to get a pre-existing fast swimmer. You’re not going to get swimmers good enough.”

James Magnussen – Photo by Patrick B. Kraemer

How Fast Can A Doped Magnussen Go? Who Cares!

Could Magnussen get back to his 21.52sec 50m free best on drugs and in a shiny suit. Maybe. But who would care? Not me. It would simply prove that you can be a faster swimmer if you enhance with what in official sport under global rules are banned substances.

What a revelation! Who knew!? Yes, we all did.

Cesar Cielo’s 20.91 in shiny suit? As James suggested, it would need to be a million before he even thought ‘that’s worth it’. And then maybe just the once.

Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee told the SMH: “The Olympic movement is devoted to clean sport and athletic excellence.”

World Aquatics made the same point when former elite swimmer Brett Fraser joined the EG crew as “Chief Athletes Officer”.

Money is the motivation the EG will use to entice. That’s the most honest part. The questionable part is the core mission, the enhancement, and what D’Souza says when he tells us all he’s confident there will be “hundreds” of athletes ready to line up: “These are people who have never competed publicly because they are enhanced, and they’re breaking world records in their basement and sending us videos of it.”

No, they are not breaking records. You can only break a record if you follow the rules, including the WADA Code.

In that sense, the EG would have to have records of its own and everyone would know that comparison with the tested world would be pointless. Like shiny suits: different sport entirely.

Worth repeating what Magnussen told the Hello Sport folk:

James Magnussen of Australia

“I’m going to need one of those super-suits to float me.

If I get unbelievably jacked, I am going to sink.

Juice and a suit, happy days.

I don’t know heaps about it [doping] to be honest.

I think you just go the pure testosterone.

Pump your levels up to a superhuman level and then turn into a freak show.”

James Magnussen – photo by Patrick B. Kraemer

Let’s not.

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