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You may remember when three women who were suspected to live with hyperandrogenism took all three medals in the women’s 800m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Assumptions on their gender were based on appearance, which isn’t very scientific.
Since the 2012 London Olympics, the sport has been divided on whether South Africa’s Caster Semenya — who won the gold medal in Rio and London — should continue to compete as a woman. Fans continue to be divided.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said the state of women’s sports is “very fragile” and sports federations need to get it right when writing rules for transgender female athletes.
Many men and women took to Twitter to comment on their feelings about NCAA Division 1, 500-yard swim champion Lia Thomas competing as a woman. The majority appear to be against Thomas competing as a woman, for example, the tweet below.
No, Lia Thomas did not set a new record in the NCAA women’s championship 500 freestyle prelim.— Brittany Hughes (@RealBrittHughes) March 17, 2022
Because Lia Thomas is a man. It is literally not possible for him to set a new women’s record in anything. No matter what some scoreboard says.
This comment comes on the heels of Thomas competing in women’s events after dropping out of the men’s program. The University of Pennsylvania athlete then became the first transgender NCAA Division 1 Champion in history by winning that women’s race in Atlanta last week.
“These are sensitive issues, they are societal issues — they go way, way beyond sport. I don’t have the luxury to get into endless discussions or the school of moral philosophy.”
In February, USA Swimming unveiled a policy to allow transgender athletes to swim in elite events by setting out criteria that aim to mitigate any unfair advantages.
The rules include testing for high testosterone levels — five nanomoles per liter continuously for at least 36 months — in transgender athletes who wish to compete in the women’s category.
Women who do not live with hyperandrogenism or are not transgender would typically need to take performance-enhancing drugs to have high levels of testosterone. Thereby cheating, and being subject to suspension.
The rules around fair competition need to be made and equitable for both (or all three) sides. This is one of the most difficult conflicts to hit sports and there seems to be no easy answer in the effort to protect the women’s category.