The nonpartisan coalition Save Women’s Sports has launched a new petition calling on the International Olympic Committee to bar transgender-identifying male athletes from participating in women’s sports during the upcoming games in Tokyo.
In 2015, the IOC began requiring transgender women (biological males) wishing to participate in women’s sporting events to undergo hormone therapy and prove that the total level of male testosterone in their blood was below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to competing.
But studies show that even with lower testosterone levels, biological males still maintain a greater lean body mass (more skeletal muscle and less fat), greater lung capacity and larger hearts than women—giving these transgender athletes an unfair physical advantage.
“Allowing male athletes to self-identify as female competitors is irresponsible, negligent and dangerous,” the petitions reads. “In adopting the 2015 transgender guidelines you have abandoned your duty to protect the safety and integrity of females and female sports. This amounts to blatant discrimination against women on the basis of sex. Males should not compete in female sports.”
The IOC said it was planning to publish new guidelines concerning transgender athletes ahead of the 2020 Olympics but has decided to wait until after the Tokyo games, which have been postponed to July 2021 due to the global pandemic.
Transgender athletes such as BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe of the United States, Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu and weightlifter Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand are expected to compete in the Tokyo Olympics next year.
In working to establish new transgender guidelines, Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director, says that the committee has sought input from hundreds of athletes, doctors and human rights experts, but warns that “whatever is put in place will undoubtedly upset a lot of people.”
The issue of transgender athletes participating in women’s sports has not only found traction on the global stage but has trickled down to American high schools as well.
Three high school students—Selina Soule, Allana Smith and Chelsea Mitchell—filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s decision to allow boys to compete against them if they “identify” as girls.
Christiana Holcomb, who is representing the trio on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom, argues that “girls shouldn’t be reduced to spectators in their own sport.”
“Allowing males to compete in the female category isn’t fair and destroys girls’ athletic opportunities,” she says. “Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls—that’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place. And a male’s belief about his gender doesn’t eliminate those advantages.”
Photo: GK Images/Alamy Stock Photo