Top Secret! Men Competing Against Women is Unfair

Last month the Federation Internationale de Nattacion (FINA), the governing body of swimming sports and part of the Olympic movement, ruled:

Male-to-female transgender athletes (transgender women) and athletes with 46 XY DSD whose legal gender and/or gender identity is female are eligible to compete in the women’s category in FINA competitions and to set FINA World Records in the women’s category in FINA competitions and in other events recognized by FINA if they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.

 “We have to protect the rights of all our athletes to compete,” explained FINA boss Husain Al-Musallam, “but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially women’s competition and also the past record and achievement of the women.” This ruled out swimmers such as Penn’s Lia Thomas, formerly Will Thomas, who transitioned from men’s to the women’s team. 

Caitlyn Jenner welcomed the move and swimmer Sharron Davies, Olympic silver medalist in 1980, told reporters “I can’t tell you how proud I am of my sport, FINA and the FINA president for doing the science, asking the athletes/coaches and standing up for fair sport for females.” 

At the Moscow Olympics in 1980,  Davies recalls, “the East German women had been doped with testosterone and put through male puberty. They looked and sounded like men; they had male physiques, male voices, they even had Adam’s apples.” 

The doping gave the Germans about a nine percent advantage, and they won 90 percent of women’s medals in swimming: first, second, and third in pretty much every event. Davies finds “a massive parallel to what is happening now in sports, with trans women competing in the women’s category.” 

The FINA decision didn’t sit well with Anne Liebermann, director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ athletic advocacy group. 

“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific,” Lieberman explained, and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee framework on fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sex variations and so forth. That invites a look at what the science says. 

Besides the obvious differences, women’s skeletal structures have wider hips, broader facial bones, smaller chins, a longer trunk, and shorter legs than men. Men have larger hearts and lungs than women. Women have larger livers, stomachs, thyroid glands, and kidneys than men, along with lower blood pressure and a faster heartbeat. On average, men are 10 percent larger than women, and so on. 

A sex-testing policy could check hormones, chromosomes, internal organs and such. That would determine who is in fact a man and a woman. Recall that in 1960, decidedly male-looking Tamara Press of the Soviet Union won Olympic medals in women’s shot put and discus, and sister Irina, not exactly svelte, won gold in hurdles. The International Amateur Athletic Federation Instituted a sex-testing policy in 1966, and the Press sisters promptly pulled out of the European championships, with Tamara conveniently retiring in 1967.

East Germany, a Soviet colony, revived the cheating in 1980. For a hilarious send-up of the GDR women’s Olympic team see the 1984 Top Secret! from the same crew that produced “Airplane!” in 1980. 

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan showed up at the Brandenburg Gate and challenged Soviet boss Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Gorby wasn’t going for it but in 1989 the people took it down themselves. Soon the GDR was no more but decades later a Dictatorship of the Subjunctive Mood (DSM), equally totalitarian, is pervasive in the West. 

Under DSM, for example, Senator Elizabeth Warren can proclaim herself a Cherokee and still run for president after her fraud is exposed. Joe Biden can claim that he served as a liaison between Egypt and Israel during the Six-Day War, when he was still in law school. The Delaware Democrat touts his fantastic performance in office, if people would only deny the reality. 

Under DSM, men can pretend to be women, with the demand that others accept this fraud on pain of being called  “transphobic.” As with the GDR and other Stalinist regimes, dissenters are pronounced insane and jokes are forbidden. Comedian Dave Chappelle has drawn the “transphobic” charge for his Netflix comedy specials. People have been suspended from Twitter for wondering if Lia Thomas’ rudder was still in place. 

FINA has now halted the Thomas-style cheaters but still backs the transformation process, as long as it starts before age 12. That would require parental collaboration for the requisite intervention. Those who are okay with it might imagine FINA, the NCAA or the Olympics sanctioning steroids and other performance enhancers as long as the athlete starts taking them before age 12. 

The new FINA rule, meanwhile, may not be the last word. According to Al-Musallam, the organization plans an “open” category for athletes to compete, “without regard to their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity.” Sharron Davies likes the concept. 

It’s important that we find ways that trans people can be included in sport,” Davis explains, “whether that’s turning the men’s category into an Open category, having a third category or supporting the trans community to create their own Pride games. I don’t know what the answer is; I’m not professing to have all the answers. All I’m professing to stand up for is for fair sport for females.”

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images