Enhanced Games: Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel invests in controversial doped Olympics

The Enhanced Games promises to lure athletes away from the Olympics with vast payments

Lawrence Ostlere
Wednesday 31 January 2024 15:45 GMT
The man behind the Enhanced Games, Aron D’Souza
The man behind the Enhanced Games, Aron D’Souza (Enhanced Games)

Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, has joined a multi-million dollar investment in the controversial Enhanced Games, a proposed Olympics-style mega-event without drug testing.

The Enhanced Games promises to put on an international sporting event where performance-enhancing drugs are allowed, within a regulated environment which would include a “sophisticated safety protocol” of health checks before and after competition.

Unlike the International Olympic Committee, the Enhanced Games would be a for-profit event which promises to generously pay athletes who it believes are being exploited the not-for-profit system.

The idea is the brainchild of Dr Aron D’Souza, the Australian lawyer who helped mastermind Thiel’s proxy war against news media organisation Gawker, which led to Gawker’s bankruptcy in 2016.

D’Souza has had to seek funding from alternative sources to the prominent brands backing the Olympics due to the controversial nature of the project. But in a statement, the Enhanced Games said its new backing gives it the “financial foundations to deliver a world-class sporting event”.

Peter Thiel has put his name to the Enhanced Games project (Getty Images)

It has been widely dismissed in mainstream sport. “No one within athletics takes the Enhanced Games seriously,” said Lord Sebastian Coe, head of World Athletics, on a recent podcast. Travis Tygart, the head of the US anti-doping agency (Usada), called it “farcical … likely illegal in many [US] states” and “a dangerous clown show, not real sport”.

But in a recent interview with The Independent, D’Souza was defiant, and outlined how he hoped the Enhanced Games would not only shake up the world of sport, but would provide a public platform for life-extending science to thrive.

“This is the route towards eternal life,” D’Souza said. “It’s how we bring about performance-medicine technologies, that then create a feedback cycle of good technologies, selling to the world, more revenue, more R&D, to develop better and better technologies.

“And what is performance medicine about? It’s not about steroids and getting jacked muscles. It’s about being a better, stronger, faster, younger athlete for longer. And who doesn’t want to be younger for longer?”

Thiel has already invested significant funds into life-extending technologies via organisations such as the Methuselah Foundation, which aims to “extend the healthy human lifespan by making 90 the new 50 by 2030”.

Along with Thiel, Christian Angermayer’s Apeiron Investment Group and former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan have also committed funding to the project.

The first Enhanced Games had originally been tentatively scheduled for December this year. The investment announcement gave no further details about the event or which athletes would take part.

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