Politics & Policy

In Defense of Women’s Sports

U.S. runner Alysia Montano (at right) races against other competitors in a women’s 800-meter semifinal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. (Erich Schlegel/USA TODAY Sports)
Everyone is supposed to ignore the madness.

We’re going to need the cisgendered Olympics.

The state of Connecticut has offered a dismaying picture of the future of female athletics, with two transgender runners routinely outpacing the competition at the state track championships. 

The two biologically male students, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, finished first and second respectively in the 55-meter dash this year, crushing the competition. Miller set a new girls indoor record, and also won the 300-meter. The year before, the two finished first and second in the 100-meter state outdoor championships.

Connecticut allows students to compete in sports as the gender they identify as, with no further requirements. If fashionable opinion has anything to say about it, this will be the universal trend. 

Everyone is supposed to ignore the madness of it. In sports, the alleged subjectivity of gender identity runs up against the ineluctability of sex.

Testosterone, which males get massive doses of beginning at puberty, is the original performance-enhancing drug. It makes men bigger, stronger, and faster. It is easier for them to add muscle mass. They have bigger hearts (physically, not metaphorically, of course), and greater lung capacity, among other physical advantages. 

This accounts for the considerable male–female gap in athletic performance. “This differential isn’t the result of boys and men having a male identity, more resources, better training, or superior discipline,” Doriane Lambelet Coleman and Wickliffe Shreve of Duke Law School write. “It’s because they have an androgenized body.”

At the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, Florence Griffith Joyner established a women’s record of 10.49 seconds in the 100-meter dash that no one has come close to touching ever since (in fact, there are suspicions that she was using a performance-enhancing drug). 

Her epic sprint would have been ho-hum for a male. According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, there were 15 men in the United States whose best time was 10.49 in the 100-meter in 2018, and they were merely tied for 217th fastest last year. 

Worldwide, there were 35 men whose best was at that time, all tied for 768th fastest in 2018. 

This is why we have separate female and male competitions to begin with, so women can showcase their talents and get recognition without being overshadowed by men with inherent physiological advantages. This commonsense reason for separate competitions and separate record books is now falling away. 

The International Olympic Committee has dropped a requirement for sex-reassignment surgery for transgender athletes, and it has set a maximum level of testosterone for transgendered women that’s still high for biological females. Even if biologically male athletes get their testosterone levels down, their bodies are still different.

A former Olympic volleyball player from Brazil, Ana Paula Henkel, made this point in an open letter opposing the new Olympic policy. “This rushed and heedless decision to include biological men, born and built with testosterone, with their height, their strength and aerobic capacity of men, is beyond the sphere of tolerance,” Henkel wrote. “It represses, embarrasses, humiliates and excludes women.”

She cited the example of a Brazilian player who formerly competed as a man and now dominates in the women’s league and will probably make the 2020 women’s Olympic team (and deny a spot to a female player who doesn’t have the build of a man). 

It now takes courage to raise any such objections. Feminists in good standing the day before yesterday are getting ostracized for insisting that there are differences between men and women that matter and can’t be ignored or wished away.

When the tennis great Martina Navratilova wrote against biological males’ competing in women’s sports, she was roundly attacked as transphobic and swiftly booted from the board of the LGBT group Athlete Ally. A former Olympic swimmer from Britain, Sharron Davies, got mobbed for expressing similar sentiments.

We live in an age when stating the obvious is forbidden, and women’s sports may never be quite the same. 

© 2019 by King Features Syndicate

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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