World Aquatics has rejected the premise of an “Enhanced Games” concept announced last week by a coalition of athletes, doctors and scientists as “a direct challenger to the Olympic Games that aims to celebrate the best of humanity and science” in drug-test-free competition.
In other words, what is banned doping in Olympic sport would not be tested for at the “Enhanced Games”, where there would be no role for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) nor its affiliate testing agencies.
SOS contacted World Aquatics after a swimmer promoted the trademarked Enhanced Games brand. A spokesman for the global regulator said: “Our vision at World Aquatics includes health, life and sport. We completely reject the premise of the Enhanced Games on the basis of all three.”
Brett Fraser, who represented the Cayman Islands in Swimming, and serves as the Enhanced Games’ Chief Athletes Officer, stated: “After competing in three Olympics, I know first-hand that all the wonderful achievements of the Olympic Movement are at risk because of the over-politicisation of the Olympic bureaucracy.”
Couple that to this explanation from Dr Aron D’Souza, Melbourne-born, London-based businessman, and president of the Enhanced Games: “The Enhanced Games will be the first international sports event that fully supports performance enhancements. We believe that science is real and has an important place in supporting human flourishing. There is no better way to highlight the centrality of science in our modern world than in elite sports. We all know that the use of performance enhancements in sports is an open secret. The safest way to level the playing field is to allow athletes to openly use science to achieve their full potential.”
D’Souza attacked the International Olympic Committee and its way of doing business, while stating that his way was “morally correct”. Australia’s Paris 2024 Olympic chef de mission Anna Meares labelled the Enhanced Games “a joke… unfair and unsafe”.
D’Souza’s line is reminiscent of that used in 1990 by the head of the GDR’s systematic doping program, Manfred Höppner, later to be handed a criminal conviction for harming minors with substances they did not require on medical grounds. It had all been done to provide “supporting means” and ensure athletes had the pharmaceutical help required to do their jobs.
The GDR doping era had its greatest impact on female athletes, a point that may have bypassed the eight men – an all-male leadership – at the helm of the Enhanced Games project.
What he did not mention was what the GDR scientists who devised the doping program had warned politicians about since the 1960s: a high price would be paid in health by the likes of generations of teenage girls give male hormones around the time of puberty.
And so it proved, as the Doping Trials in Germany between 1998 and 2000 proved when athletes and others testified against their abusers in court, some of the detail of dodges and damage excoriating. The statistics, as set out in the book Unfair Play, show how generations of clean athletes were thumped into submission by the GDR women, with more than 90% of all medals – and all gold medals – going to that one nation at European championships between 1974 and 1989. The history of women’s sport of the 1970s and 80s is scarred by the doping era, most victims female and either clean or abused, whichever way you look at it.
The price included serious health problems, while many East German victims of the doping program believed the chemicals fed to them as part of their preparation as “ambassadors in tracksuits” were responsible for the birth of disabled children and even premature death among teammates. Over the past 20 years, the German state has paid out tens of millions in compensation to those athletes harmed.
Brett Fraser & Enhanced Games Out Of Step With WADA, WA Integrity Unit & World Aquatics Rules
Brett Fraser was a three-time Olympian. He was still a registered competitor at 30 years of age in 2020, racing under rules that forbid doping. He was a 22.4, 48.5 and 1:47 swimmer for the Cayman Islands in the 50,100, 200m freestyle and placed 14th and 12th respectively in the 100 and 200m freestyle (two per nation) at the London 2012 Olympics, ranking him 21st in the world in both events that year.
His brother Shaune Fraser is still the Caymans national record holder in the 100 and 200m freestyle from a time of shiny suits since banned in 2010, while Brett Fraser, who competed in college racing for the University of Florida in the United States, was a touch slower than his sibling when racing in textile in best form in the 2011-12 seasons. Brett Fraser lost his Cayman’s 50m freestyle record to Jordan Crooks (22.20) last year, Fraser’s 22.41 from 2011 ranked 49th in the world that year. These days, that pace would not make the annual top 100.
A spokesman for World Aquatics, which finally stripped Dr. Lothar Kipke, one of the GDR’s top doping men of FINA honour in 2021, noted the dangers of doping and its impact on physical and mental health:
“The comprehensive anti-doping work of World Aquatics, the independent Aquatics Integrity Unit and our partners at the International Testing Agency represent a combined effort to ensure not just the fairness of our competitions but to protect the health of our athletes. Doping has been repeatedly demonstrated to have adverse impacts on both physical and mental health. We will continue to work diligently to promote clean sport and protect clean athletes.”World Aquatics. Image: Doping: Von Forschung Zum Betrug … from Research To Fraud, by Brigitte Berendonk, published in 1991
All athletes who wish to compete in major championship events, from Olympic Games and World Championships down to and including national championships and all other events run under international and associated national rules must comply with anti-doping regulations or face possible sanction.
Organisers of the Enhanced Games said their event would be “This will be “the first international sporting event without drug testing”.
That would not be the case, of course, the Olympic Games and many other competitions having been held without drug testing before the “modern era”, the 1972 Olympic Games the first at which a swimmer was sanctioned because, through no fault of his own as it turned out, a banned asthma drug was detected in his sample.
EG’s statement also noted: “According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, an estimated four million Americans have used anabolic steroids. The Enhanced Games has assembled a Scientific and Ethical Advisory Commission with leading research scientists and clinicians, including academics from Harvard and Oxford.
“Furthermore, the Enhanced Games is developing a capital-efficient model that will, unlike the Olympic Games, pay successful athletes.”
Whether it will pay any who might develop health problems as a result of ingesting substances that are not required for medical purposes is yet to be seen.
Winter Olympian Christina Smith of Canada, a member of the Enhanced Games Athletes Commission was quoted as saying: “Athletes from around the world choose to pursue sport out of passion – while making sacrifices of life and limb. The return is minimal, even when you win a medal. The IOC benefits greatly financially and has never offered to share the wealth with those who provide the product which is entertainment for the world.”
Safe, Fair, Moral Drug-Test-Free System A Monstrous Myth
Editorial (updated 27.6.23, as indicated): It’s easy to agree with World Aquatics and it’s hard to disagree with the view of Anna Mears, doping known to be unsafe, even in the GDR with the daily involvement of scientists and doctors who would later say they were forced to be a part of the system but had stayed in order to do the best they could by the athletes being doped.
This is not the first time in swimming that the idea of an enhanced competition has been suggested, the German official and FINA Bureau member Harm Beyer, a judge by profession, having stated that the doping issue could only be resolved by “opening up the medicine cabinet”.
What he did not foresee was the harm to health, the millions handed out in compensation, the even greater pressure put on young athletes in sports such as swimming in circumstances that would dictate a “take doping or lose” culture.
Imagine a world in which the doping victims of China from the 1990s – and there were legions of them, mostly teenage girls and mostly never heard of again after they rocketed into contention from nowhere and left the scene with the same haste – faced a pool full of doped opponents. Now imagine the response of the rogues who doped their athletes so they might have an advantage over clean athletes. Do the folk at the Enhanced Games think such rogues don’t exist? Do they think the rogue mindset would not just up the dosages of dangerous substances and dispense any who fell by the wayside before moving on to find fresh flesh to work with?
Do they think that Kamila Valieva, the Russian skater, is in better hands in a system that dopes teenagers or might it be better to seek to prevent such abuse? Do they think that its good to encourage more needles and pill packets to litter the stands of junior events across the USA as leading American coaches in swimming noted a few years back?
The GDR program mentioned above was a state secret. The Enhanced Games is no secret. It would all be open… or would it? Would we get to know what the athletes are enhancing themselves with; would there be limits to dosages of testosterone and related substances, to EPO, to medicines developed for extremely sick people and out of reach for many millions on grounds of cost? Would the doctors talk among themselves about what’s sad e and what’s not; would they take legal responsibility for it all? The questions run and run, on steroids.
Update: Swimmer Roland Schoeman, the South African sprinter who will race at World Swimming Championships next month aged 42, is listed as one of its athletics advisory commission members on the EG website.
He told reporter David Issacson at Business Today that while he would advise the EG project, he still observed anti-doping rules: “I have been asked by Enhanced Games to advise them, provide current knowledge, critical thinking and analysis to assist the decision-makers who represent the movement. This is based on my experiences as an elite athlete and my experiences with FINA [now World Aquatics] and WADA during my adverse analytical finding hearings. I have not changed my outlook with respect to performance-enhancing substances when it comes to the WADA, IOC, FINA, IAAF [now World Athletics] … They have very clear rules and regulations that are in place when it comes to the use of performance-enhancing substances and I support these rules unequivocally. I have done so from the start of my career and will continue to do so.”
In my opinion, the two things don’t add up, for reasons that Roland and I have disagreed on in previous years at a time when Russian Yuliya Efimova* had served a doping ban, likened a suspension to a driving offence in which you get your licence taken away but then get it back after serving time out (no mention of the opponents deprived of rightful rewards) but was working with Schoeman to improve her starts.
It’s my view that you cannot advise an organisation committed to rolling out a business plan that breaks the rules of the game you also say you agree with and are committed to. It doesn’t add up. There may be a number of goals the EG has set that one might empathise with but not a single one of those is worth supporting in the context of the overriding philosophy: doping as “science and technology”. We heard that with shiny suits, “tech suits” used by those who wanted to lend the imposter of performance-enhancement in non-textile materials an air of cutting-edge respectability. The shiny stuff had to go. And doing doesn’t belong in sport, in any form, regardless of human nature that will guarantee cheating will be with us always. (end update)
D’Souza’s position is illogic, it seems to me. We assume he would wish to distance what he has in mind from the architects of the discredited and damaging GDR system. We also assume that he truly believes that safe and fair science includes doping, the name Olympic sports give to “supporting means”.
I believe this: the idea of a safe, fair, moral doping system is a monstrous myth and is no solution to the doping crisis that is a definitive part of sport. Perhaps the whole thing is a fishing expedition to test the strength of bait and temptation. Ultimately, it feels like an adventure destined to end in disappointment back at base, the drawing board wiped clean in readiness for more robust thought among people pitching morality but hardly likely to achieve it.
Brett Fraser competed at the University of Florida, home to generations of champions Olympic and all other levels. Does he think they were all doped? In time, his former teammates and those who went before and have followed in his alma-mater footsteps may all have something to say on the subject of an Enhanced Games and the notion that such would rank higher on a score of safe, fair play and morality than a system that includes, with imperfections and its need of review, a commitment to drug testing.
- – * – athlete tested positive for doping in career and served a suspension.