Former Australian swimming star James Magnussen has stressed that his participation in the Enhanced Games have nothing to do with his swimming career and his legacy in the sport.
The now-32-year-old two-time 100m world champion and 2012 London Olympics 100m silver medallist dropped a bombshell when he revealed he would undergo a program of performance-enhancing supplements in a bid to break the 50m world record.
The Games, founded by Australian Aron D’Souza, confirmed he would guarantee a $US1m ($A1.5m) challenge for Magnussen to break the 50m mark at the Enhanced Games, an event that will allow competitors to compete without drug testing.
As Magnussen and D’Souza did the rounds on Friday, the Games’ founder said the swimmer would be known “as a hero of science”.
But while Magnussen revealed there were a few factors at play in his decision to join the competition, there was one that stood out.
“Look, first and foremost, it’s cash,” Magnussen told reporters on Friday.
“You know when you sit around at the pub and you say ‘what would you do for a million bucks?’
“I’d try and break a world record for a million bucks. That was the first thing.”
Magnussen doubled down for News Corp, writing in a column that a payday of that magnitude is “hard to ignore”.
“Retired athletes don’t have opportunities like this pop up every day,” Magnussen wrote.
“It may have started as a bit of fun, but I now have to take it seriously because that money could set me up for the next decade.”
The record attempt won’t be easy however, as the 50m freestyle record has been held by Brazillian Cesar Cielo at a time of 20.91 seconds since December 2009.
But that was back in the controversial supersuit era and since then, no other swimmer has gone under 21 seconds.
American Caeleb Dressel’s 21.04, which he achieved twice — at the 2019 World Champs and the 2021 US Olympic trials.
Cameron McEvoy’s 21.06 at the 2023 World Championships is the fastest by an Aussie.
But while money is a big factor for Magnussen, he also admitted that he would like to challenge conventional wisdom.
“So, I’m 32 years old … as far as my athletic peak, history says it’s behind me,” Magnussen said to media.
“The Enhanced Games say it’s not. Let’s find out.
“Is this a genuine avenue for athletes post-career to continue their earning potential, to continue to perform at a world-class event?
“And the third thing, entertainment. Sport is about entertainment. Sometimes we get too caught up and take sport too seriously and think that we’re playing for life and death out there.
“Sport’s about entertainment. I want to see the fastest athletes in the world, so far that’s been at the Olympic Games.
“We’ve gone from Test cricket to T20, we’ve gone from PGA to LIV Golf, we’ve got Ronaldo playing in the Saudi League in soccer — who says this can’t be the next LIV Golf?”
Despite his willingness to join the Enhanced Games, which on its own website calls itself “a better version of the Olympic Games”, Magnussen says this is completely separate from his swimming career.
“It’s something I never would have done in my career — this is very separate from my swimming career,” Magnussen said.
“My reputation and my legacy as a clean athlete, as an Olympian, that was all four or five years in the past now.
“This is a new pursuit, something I heard about and joked about with my mates and now it’s happening.”
Magnussen said he would be “doing it meticulously” to ensure he doesn’t ruin his body for the future.
“A million dollars is nice in 2024 but what does that mean when I’m 60, 70, 80 years of age.”