New petition demands fairness for women in Olympic sports

A global coalition of organizations has launched a petition demanding the suspension of its transgender participation guidelines that permit males to compete with women.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every facet of our social, cultural and economic lives, in ways too many to count, both small and large, affecting every institution in every community, from neighbourhoods to cities to the nation and beyond. Internationally, the cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), organizers in Japan and athletes engaged in peak training. The games—still to be known as the “2020” Olympics—are now slated to take place in summer of 2021.

But perhaps some existential good can arise from this delay.

A global coalition of organizations, spearheaded by Save Women’s Sports (SWS), has been encouraged by this gift of time to launch a petition to the IOC, demanding the suspension of its transgender participation guidelines, formulated in 2015, which permit biological males who identify as female to participate in women’s sports. Petition proponents claim that this policy has says has “potentially devastating effects” for female athletes, and call for the suspension to be followed by a review and fresh consultations about eligibility guidelines. Such consultations would address address new evidence demonstrating the unfairness of their present policy towards girls and women in sport.

The guidelines allow for transitioning males who maintain testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per liter for a year to compete in a women’s category without having undergone surgery to remove their testes. But, according to SWS, “This level is still an order of magnitude higher than the average testosterone level in most females. Most women’s testosterone is in the range of 0.0-3.0 nmol/L.” Men’s testosterone levels are usually between 7.7 and 29.4 nmol/L. In any case, lowering hormone levels does not diminish the structural and physiological advantages that the male body possesses over the female body.  Which is why sport has always had separate categories for the sexes.

The women’s groups supporting the petition come from ten different countries and represent a spectrum of political views. Its driving forces, though, are Beth Stelzer, an amateur powerlifter and the founder of SWS, and Linda Blade, President of Athletics Alberta (the not-for-profit sport governing body for Athletics for the Province of Alberta, representing about 3,500 people) and a former Canadian Champion and NCAA All American in the heptathlon, with a PhD in Kinesiology, who holds a Chartered Professional Coach designation in track and field.

Blade wrote a powerful opinion piece on this subject for The Post Millennial in February. In it, she laid bare the irrationality at the heart of trans activist dogmas in sport, and how ruinous the mindless application of the “inclusion” rubric has already been to girls and women’s athletic aspirations at the collegiate level, where male-bodied athletes who would be the middle of the pack in men’s sport, easily snatch medals from excellent young women athletes.

Blade has coached hundreds of athletes across the development spectrum—from beginner to professional—and claims never to have seen anything so preposterous as policies that permit female bodies to be literally “crushed by impact” with male contenders in contact sports such as handball, rugby and MMA fights. In strength events, men outperform women by as much as 25 per cent, because of their bigger lungs, stronger bones and greater muscle mass. One has only to look at trans weightlifter Lauren Hubbard, favoured for gold at the Olympics (before an injury sidelined her) to understand the advantage Hubbard brings to women’s competitions.

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard wins silver medal

Blade writes that parents “have informed me that they will remove their daughters from sports if their girls are compelled to compete with males and/or share private spaces with them in locker rooms and hotel rooms.”

In order to appear compassionate, official sports organizations everywhere are signing on to the ideology-based dogma that gender identity erases the biological reality of sexual dimorphism. Astute observers have long noted the rage with which trans activists confront refuseniks who will not concede that a transwoman “is” a woman—objectively speaking, impossible - but insist that a transwoman is, rather, a male who identifies as, and usually (but not always) presents as a woman—which is objectively true.

Trans activists knew that many legal rights would flow from general acceptance of a collapse in any distinction between biological sex and gender identity, and campaigned so vigorously for the entrenchment of the falsehood that “a transwoman is a woman” that anyone’s refusal to validate the lie is taken, sometimes with material consequences, as a form of hate speech. The falsehood has now systemically penetrated end entrenched itself in the policy-making institutions of the sport world. Eager to avoid being labelled as transphobic, these organizations took the course of least resistance to aggressive ideologues. They are one and all now tumbling down a slippery slope of their own making, which will end in the erasure of women’s sports rights.

The crux of the issue is stated in a Spiked-online commentary on a 13-year old girl’s lawsuit in Britain, which holds the right of trans people to use whatever toilets, changing rooms and dormitories they feel most comfortable with impinges on her own sex-based right to security of the person: “Trans rights are indeed human rights, as activists are wont to say. But when the issue develops into something bigger than self-identification, and starts to define other people too, we have an irreconcilable conflict. The insistence that a trans person must have access to whatever private space they feel comfortable in implicitly redefines that space, without the consent of the other people who use it. It weighs the value of their rights as lesser than those of the trans person…”

Precisely. Only why has it been left to a teenager to be forced to make her own case for dignity and security, when the adults in the room should be making it for her? The same argument applies to sports, where the stakes are so much higher than a lack of privacy, important as that issue is. But as the author of the above article correctly states, “Examples like this young girl’s case lay bare the irresponsibility and lack of leadership characterising our governing class.”

Even the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sports (CAAWS), which works in partnership with Sport Canada “to encourage girls and women of all ages to participate in sports” has, on the grounds of “safety” and “inclusion,” publicly affirmed its support for “the full participation of all individuals in sport and physical activity in the gender in which they identify,” while at the same time affirming their “ongoing commitment to achieving equity for girls and women.” The goals are mutually exclusive. It is a form of cognitive dissonance to hold two such opposing principals. Positive discrimination on behalf of males who identify as women must result in “discrimination on the basis of sex,” which runs counter to women’s Charter rights.

How could a women’s advocacy group so completely lose sight of its mission? Or any sports organization, such as the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, whose recent policy paper on inclusion of trans athletes is a travesty of reason and objectivity? It’s not hard when your advisory “Expert Working Groups” (EWG) are stakeholders in a political agenda. As I wrote in a previous article on this issue in these pages “Gender Studies and Sociology, including Sport Sociology, are currently marinated in theories of gender fluidity and social construction. The PhDs in these specialties are then hired as “gender identity experts” by sport associations in order to help formulate policies on “inclusion.”

“They invite LGBT advocacy groups as consultants as well. Nobody involved in these working groups even pretends to bring objectivity to their task. Back in the day, they were activists for women’s interests. Now they are activists for trans interests. But in sport, inclusion for trans cannot help but result in exclusion for women.” One key advisor in the CCES’s EWG, for example, was a medical doctor who specializes in hormonal and surgical transitioning of children, which speaks volumes about the predetermination of their policy.

Occasionally, one sees a ray of common sense expressed at authoritative levels. True advocates for women in sport could savour a recent victory in the U.S., where Attorney General William Barr signed a statement of interest in March, arguing against a policy of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference who, citing Title IX, the federal law mandating equal educational opportunities, allows transgender athletes to compete in Connecticut according to the gender with which they identify.

Barr’s rebuttal: “Under CIAC’s interpretation of Title IX, however, schools may not account for the real physiological differences between men and women. Instead, schools must have certain biological males—namely, those who publicly identify as female—compete against biological females,” and in so doing, “CIAC deprives those women of the single-sex athletic competitions that are one of the marquee accomplishments of Title IX.”

The Attorney-General of the United States of America seems to be one of the few disinterested individuals in high places who is prepared to confront the trans lobby on grounds of reason and fairness. There is really nothing they can do to him personally. But woe betide a member of the sports community who dares to take a principled stand—even someone of extremely high status.

When Martina Navratilova—arguably the world’s greatest female athlete, retired (therefore a disinterested observer), wealthy, a fearless pioneer in the battle for gay acceptance—tried to stand up for women’s sex-based rights in sport, she was vilified and punished with exile from the editorial board of Athlete Ally, an LGBT support organization for whom she was an ambassador. These enemies of science and data ironically accused Martina of transphobia and of basing her comments on “a false understanding of science and data.”

It is a sobering comment on the power of the trans lobby to note that Martina, powerful and secure as she is, caved to their harassment. That was the last we have heard from her on the issue. Her abject surrender—sorry to be so harsh, but it is the truth; if she had led, millions would have followed—has apparently had the ripple effect of discouraging other celebrity athletes from taking up the torch of justice for their female comrades. (It’s not too late, Martina. Honour is holding your cloak at the ready.)

Which is not to say that all elite athletes lack the courage to speak truth to power. Linda Blade is plowing a lonely furrow in Canada, while in England, Dame Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe and Sharron Davies have written a powerful letter to the IOC regarding transgender athletes. Holmes is a two-time Olympic champion runner; Radcliffe—a world record holder—is a six-time world champion track star and marathoner; and Davies is an Olympic silver medalist swimmer. Davies is especially active on social media and podcasts (a conversation with Linda Blade can be found here).

Viruses such as Covid-19 attack the frail and the elderly. Ideological contagions attack the critical thinking function of our allegedly most enlightened elites. Anyone with a shred of intellectual integrity who wanted to believe that biology is irrelevant to sport outcomes would find himself stymied by the ineluctable fact that no transman has ever come remotely close to posing a threat to biological males in men’s sport—and never will. The science of epidemiology cannot support such a contradiction between theory and data.

Indeed, the only valid study, undertaken by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and published in Sept, 2019, which measured strength changes throughout the gender transitioning process indicates that, after a full year of testosterone (T) reduction, males in transition maintain their strength advantage over women. Interestingly, muscle strength in transitioning women—who increased their T over the same year—remained lower than the low-T males. Therefore, the current evidence indicates that a levelling of the playing field in sports cannot be ensured by hormone replacement therapy.

If the IOC falls victim to this particular viral strain, it will end very badly for women athletes. As Beth Stelzer ominously, but correctly states on the SWS website: “If we allow males to compete in female sports, there will be men's sports, there will be co-ed sports, but there will no longer be women's sports."

If you believe in a level playing field in sport, and therefore support sex-based rights in sport, please sign the petition and distribute it to friends and the public through social media. You can express your opinion directly to the IOC at studies.centre@olympic.org.