‘No Room for Push Back by Other Athletes’: Male Marathon Runner Will Compete in U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials

Transgender flag at a protest against Trump administration policies in New York City, 2018 (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

A male marathon runner will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials later this month.

28-year-old Megan Youngren finished 40th with a time of 2:43:52 among biological women at the California International Marathon to qualify for the trials, which are set to begin on February 29.

“To my knowledge, and that of other staff who have been with USATF for many years, we do not recall a trans competitor at our Marathon Trials,” spokesperson Susan Hazzard told Sports Illustrated.

“I’m open to talking about it to people because that’s the only way you make progress on stuff like this,” Youngren said on the precedent.

Youngren’s first marathon came in Alaska in 2017, and the transgender woman has shaved off two hours of time since then. At the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon, Youngren managed to hit the 3:06:42, before setting a goal of a sub-three hour marathon.

“I thought that if I worked incredibly hard and took some huge risks that I could run a 2:45,” Youngren said. “People will try to put it down by saying, ‘That’s too easy because you’re trans.’ But what about the 500 other women who will qualify? There’s probably someone with the exact same story. I trained hard. I got lucky. I dodged injuries. I raced a lot, and it worked out for me. That’s the story for a lot of other people, too.”

The International Olympics Committee allows biological male athletes to compete as transgender against their biological female counterparts after showing testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before competition. Youngren’s testosterone levels are a below 2 nmol/L. A host of scientific studies have concluded that reducing a male athlete’s testosterone does not entirely eliminate their competitive advantage over females.

“I have done everything by the book, and I can show that,” Youngren said.

Youngren was listed as “not qualified” when the Olympic trials were announced in January after still going through the process of submitting a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone-blocking medication.

The delay caused USATF’s head of women’s long-distance, Kimberly Keenan-Kirkpatrick, to apologize to Youngren by email.

“USATF wants to get everything right so there is no room for push back by other athletes, which will make the process easier for you,” wrote Keenan-Kirkpatrick.

Transgender athletics remains controversial, with three Connecticut high-school girls filing a federal lawsuit earlier this week to block biological males from competing in the state’s high school sports, after the state changed the rules in 2017.

“Our dream is not to come in second or third place, but to win fair and square,” Chelsea Mitchell, one of the plaintiffs, said. “All we’re asking for is a fair chance.”

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