Ex-SA Olympic star Schoeman advises rebel sports body promoting drug use

26 June 2023 - 08:47
By David Isaacson
Roland Schoeman won SA's first world championship medal in Fukuoka in 2001. File photo.
Image: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images Roland Schoeman won SA's first world championship medal in Fukuoka in 2001. File photo.

Former swimming star Roland Schoeman is advising a rebel movement that wants to stage an Olympic-styled games allowing athletes to use performance-enhancing substances, but he says he himself will continue playing by the anti-doping rules.

The Enhanced Games, which describes the war on drugs in sport as “oppression” and anti-science dogma,  lists Schoeman as one of its athletics advisory commission members on its website.

Schoeman won three Olympic medals at Athens 2004 as well as six world championship gongs before serving a doping ban a few years ago, although he insisted it was the result of a contaminated product. At the time he said had never knowingly taken performance-enhancing substances and he never would.

“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,” Schoeman told TimesLIVE in written responses to emailed questions.

“This is based on my experiences as an elite athlete and my experiences with Fina [swimming’s world governing body] and Wada [the World Anti-Doping Agency] 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 [the International Olympic Committee], Fina, IAAF [world athletics' governing body] … [and such] organisations.

“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,” said the 42-year-old, who is scheduled to represent South Africa at the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan, next month. 

Enhanced Games is being pushed by England-based Australian businessman Dr Aron D’Souza, who wants drugs in sport to be legalised and athletes to compete without being tested.

According to The Guardian, he wants an inaugural games to be held in December 2024.

Enhanced Games is critical of the IOC, complaining that too little of the organisation’s $7.6bn four-yearly revenue gets to athletes. But it doesn’t seem to offer a concrete alternative funding model.

Its website claimed 4-million Americans used anabolic-androgenic steroids, stating: “When used correctly, the inclusion of performance enhancements can have significantly positive effects on the results of training and exercise routines.”

It described the anti-doping campaign as “oppression”.

“After years of oppression we are seeing a pushback against the anti-science dogma purported by the incumbent sporting leagues. Enhance is here to free science and sport from those who would rather it be shackled.”

The website offers what it calls myths and facts around the use of drugs.

“The Olympic Committee’s ban on performance enhancements is a form of ahistorical anti-science discrimination,” it says.

The website also has a “hall of shame” listing so-called “enemies of science” who include IOC president Thomas Bach, and has a section with seven tips for athletes on “how to come out as enhanced”.

Schoeman said he believes using performance-enhancing drugs should be a personal choice based on facts.

“I firmly believe in personal choice when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, and I personally chose not to use them.

“I believe each individual should have the freedom to make their own decision regarding PEDs [performance-enhancing drugs], as long as they are well-informed about the potential risks, consequences and requirements of their respective national and international federations.

“By advocating for informed decision-making and respecting individual choices, we can foster a culture of integrity, fairness and responsibility in sports.”

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