Billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has invested in the Enhanced Games, a sports contest billed as a “modern reinvention of the Olympic Games.” The privately funded event aims to be the “Olympics of the future,” focusing on individual prowess in five core sporting categories: athletics, aquatics, combat, gymnastics, and strength. Thiel joins other notable investors, including Balaji Srinivasan, a cryptocurrency investor, and Christian Angermayer, a biotech investor.
The Enhanced Games positions itself as embracing science and technology to enhance human performance, challenging traditional views on drug testing in sports. Notably, the contest will not test athletes for drugs or performance enhancers, emphasizing the inclusion of science in sports and rejecting what it considers “anti-science” legacy systems. The organizers express a commitment to athlete safety and plan to implement a sophisticated safety protocol.
The “Enhanced Movement” promoted by the contest emphasizes enhancements as a personal choice for competitors, pushing the perceived limits of what is possible. The goal is to set new world records, and the competition aims to be the “safest international sporting event in history.” To achieve this, full medical screens will be required for participating athletes, monitoring any potential risks.
Team sports have been excluded from the Enhanced Games to prioritize individual achievements. The organizers claim their approach will make the contest the “most inclusive sports league in history,” welcoming participants regardless of whether they are natural, adaptive, enhanced, amateur, or former Olympians. Registration for the games is set to open in late 2024, with precise competition dates yet to be announced.
The Enhanced Games organizers aim to avoid the excessive waste and costs associated with the modern Olympic Games. The event is designed to be hosted at a Division One university campus, eliminating the need for new stadiums and potential city debt. Additionally, this approach enables fair compensation for athletes, contrasting with the limited financial benefits received by successful athletes in the Olympic Games.
However, critics, including Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), argue that such contests put athletes’ health at risk and undermine the integrity and fairness of sports competition. Tygart labels the idea of the Enhanced Games as “farcical” and a “dangerous clown show,” potentially facing legal issues in many states due to the legal status of certain performance enhancers.
The Enhanced Games organizers plan to announce the exact prize pool and compensation structure in mid-2024, with athletes receiving a base salary and competing for additional prize winnings. Despite the controversial nature of the competition, Thiel’s involvement adds a high-profile dimension, given his net worth of $6.2 billion and influential roles in companies like PayPal, Palantir, and Facebook. The Enhanced Games, with its unconventional approach, sets the stage for a paradigm shift in the world of competitive sports.