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The Gutting of Women’s Sports

A Commentary by Brian C. Joondeph

Women’s sports came into their own with Title IX in 1972, leveling the playing field by providing funding that was lacking in the past. At that time there were only 300,000 women and girls participating in high school and college sports, but by 2012 that number increased to 3 million girls in high school sports and 190,000 in college sports, a sixfold increase.

Now almost 50 years after enactment of Title IX, this progress is being systematically gutted by our new woke culture, ironically under the new buzzwords of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Surprisingly most women’s rights groups and activists are silent on this direct assault on female athletes.

Transgender athletes are destroying the distinction between men's and women's sports, specifically biological men competing as women. This has been slowly building over the past few years.

In 2019 in Connecticut, two boys “transitioning” into girls competed in the girls’ state track championship, taking first and second place in the 55-meter sprint, the winner setting a new state record.

In this year’s Tokyo Olympics, New Zealand named Laurel Hubbard to its women’s weightlifting roster, making Hubbard the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. As a 43-year-old, Hubbard competed in the category for women over 87 kg. Hubbard made history by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete in an individual even at the summer Olympics but failed to reach the final or medal. But the door is open for others.

Today it’s women's college swimming under assault, specifically a University of Pennsylvania athlete: “UPenn trans swimmer, 22, sparks outrage by smashing women’s competition records after competing as a man for three seasons.”

Will Thomas, now 22, swam for the UPenn men’s swim team for three years before taking a year off due to the COVID pandemic, with his last event competing as a man in November 2019. At some point thereafter, Will began transitioning from Will to Lia. Per NCAA rules, any trans female athlete can take part in women’s events if they have completed a year of testosterone suppression treatment.

In November 2021, Thomas competed in a tri-meet between UPenn, Cornell, and Princeton where, as the Daily Mail describes, “the senior 'blasted' UPenn records in the 200m and 500m freestyle – posting times that beat almost every other female swimmer across America.” These times were so fast that, “Thomas would have been in line to secure a silver medal at the NCAA Women's Championships, while her 4:35:06 in the 500m freestyle would have been good enough to win bronze.”

Suppose Thomas competed in the Tokyo Olympics as a female swimmer, in the 200m freestyle? The women's  gold medal winning time was 1:53.50. On the men’s side in the same event, before the finals, before even the semifinals, in the heats, looking at the 39 male competitors, all but one would have beaten the women's gold medal time. The men’s gold medal swim was 1:44.22, 9 seconds faster than the women’s gold medal time.

This is exactly why men and women compete separately to avoid creating an uneven playing field, or an uneven swimming pool in this case.

It is not just a matter of testosterone suppression therapy. The International Olympic Committee in a 2015 report acknowledged, “People who have undergone male puberty retain significant advantages in power and strength even after taking medication to suppress their testosterone levels.”

This is an important point that woke athletic directors ignore. During male puberty, testosterone separates boys from girls in terms of muscle mass, strength, and power. The level of testosterone in adulthood matters little as the athletic engine has already been built during puberty.

Now the IOC doesn’t even care about testosterone levels. Their new framework states, “No athlete has an inherent advantage & moves away from eligibility criteria focused on testosterone levels, a practice that caused harmful & abusive practices such as invasive physical examinations & sex testing.”

Then why bother having separate male and female sports, rather than a free-for-all competition? Try that in baseball, basketball, football, or hockey and see how it plays out.

We now have a biological male, competing as a female, setting Ivy League swimming records. She may also compete in the NCAA Women's Championships in March with current swim times ranking number one in the nation, likely earning her several gold medals. She may also break records set by Olympic swimmers Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky.

How is this fair to girls getting in the pool on cold, dark mornings for 5 a.m. swim practice for many years, along with the sacrifices of the swimmers and parents, allowing these girls to reach the pinnacle of their sport, only to be pushed aside by a boy who chooses to compete as a girl? How is that for equity and inclusion?

Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a physician and writer. On Twitter as @retinaldoctor.

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