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Only Olympic prize money can stop the Enhanced Games, says Matt Richards

Matt Richards wants to see Olympic prize money offered  (Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)
Matt Richards wants to see Olympic prize money offered (Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)

Team GB’s world champion swimmer Matt Richards believes only cash for Olympics gold can extinguish the Enhanced Games.

His fellow freestyle swimmer, Australian James Magnussen, has been one of the first athletes to sign up for the Enhanced Games. Magnussen will deliberately dope in an attempt to win $1m by trying to break a world record at the controversial event.

For the first time, track and field athletes will net £40,000 should they win gold at Paris 2024 with relay teams sharing the same amount. Some nations offer medal bonuses but no similar arrangements are in place for swimming or the other sports on the Olympic programme.

Richards believes prize money at the Olympic Games could help ward off such threats to the integrity of his sport.

“The Enhanced Games is offering stupid money for athletes to become drug cheats,” said Richards. “To protect the sport, protect the Olympics and everything that’s great about what we do, the governing bodies are going to have to start putting money up to stop athletes straying over to events like that.”

Richards invests in the stock market himself and is saving up to buy his own home and invest in property, as well as preparing for a post-Games wedding with fellow swimmer Emily Large.

Matthew Richards brilliantly won 200m freestyle gold at the World Championship last year (PA Wire)
Matthew Richards brilliantly won 200m freestyle gold at the World Championship last year (PA Wire)

Critics suggest prize money would erode Olympic values and the IOC claim they invest $4.2m in grassroots sport every day. But Richards, crowned world champion in the men’s 200m freestyle last year, urged organisers to step in and redress the balance.

“Winning Olympic gold is incredible and that’s why we go, we go knowing we’re not going to make a lot of money off the back of it,” said the 21-year-old, who will benefit from Aldi and Team GB’s Nearest & Dearest programme in Paris, which helps maximise support and minimise potential distractions for athletes so that they can focus on their performance and make the most of the unique opportunity to compete on one of the world’s largest stages.

“The Olympics make crazy money every four years – big business – but the athletes aren’t able to win any of that. If the IOC stepped in and offered a blanket amount, that would make a lot of athletes a lot happier.

“There are athletes who are struggling to make ends meet, week in week out, and struggling to put food on their table. You see stories of athletes going bankrupt to go to the Olympics and I don’t think that’s right.

“I’d love it if World Aquatics came out and offered money for medals, I’m not going to turn that down. There need to be some conversations had about how we better support athletes at the Olympics.

“It’s not an amateur Games any more, there are basketball players there earning hundreds of millions a year, football and tennis are the same. There needs to be something done about it.”

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