Controversy around the participation of transgender women in elite women’s sport has been raging for quite a while now. It is probably one of the most delicate and tricky subjects the sporting world has ever faced: on the one hand, every sport needs to be as inclusive as humanly possible. But on the other hand, that inclusivity can’t be at the expense of fairness.
However, over the last week or so, more and more governing bodies are starting to decide that the cost of inclusivity may be too high, and protecting the integrity of competition takes precedence. And it’s hard not to agree with their conclusions.
Last week, swimming rule makers FINA voted to restrict transgender athletes in women’s elite competition while Rugby League followed suit by banning transgender women ‘until further notice’. Rumours suggest that athletics will go down a similar path sooner rather than later, while cycling, rugby union and Australian rules football have already put transgender restrictions in place.
Although rugby, as a contact sport, pointed out potential safety concerns, the primary concern of most of these ruling bodies is protecting the level playing field – ensuring biological women are not at a competitive disadvantage.
As you would imagine this move towards exclusion has angered trans activists and pressure groups.
One leading advocate of the inclusion of transgender women in sport – American football legend Megan Rapinoe – slammed these moves. She said this exclusion was happening because people were afraid of a transperson being successful in a sport. But I’m afraid she is missing the point.
This isn’t about being afraid of transgender women being successful, it is about being afraid that their achievements come about because they have a physical advantage over their biological counterparts. Which is why this argument is only centred on transgender women in women’s sports and never on transgender men in men’s sports – the chances that a transgender man is likely to have a sporting advantage over a biological man are almost entirely non-existent.
If a woman transitioned to a man and went on to play football at the top level, for example, the vast majority of supporters would love the success story. But flip that round and there would be too many questions over potential physical advantage for people to treat it as a fairy tale.
In reality, the sporting authorities are in a position where they simply can’t win – whatever they do will end up angering one side or another. And now, having been effectively backed into a corner where a decision needs to be made, they are starting to decide that protecting the right of biological ladies to a fair and equal sporting contest must be their priority, at least in the short term.
The sporting authorities are starting to decide that protecting the right of biological ladies to a fair and equal sporting contest must be their priority
There is talk, a lot of talk, about setting up ‘open’ categories in major sports, to run alongside the biological male and biological female categories. That may not be the ideal solution, it may not be the most inclusive of options, but frankly, I don’t see a better long-term solution.
I guess we will have to see how things pan out.
Never go back…
When Romelu Lukaku returned to Stamford Bridge less than a year ago it looked, on paper at least, to be a cracking move. Chelsea needed a proven, consistent and powerful striker to lead the line, and Lukaku ticked a lot of those boxes. He was coming ‘home’ seven years older, considerably wiser, and on the back of a title-winning season with Inter.
But that’s the thing about Lukaku: unless a team builds its style and approach around him, he turns into lumbering, miserable hulk who looks like he has never seen a football before. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.
But the truth is that clubs who don’t play to his strengths are never going to see the best of him. And, over the past year, Chelsea have not, for whatever reason, played to his strengths, turning him into a shadow of the player who was so effective in Italy.
Some people say footballers should never return to their old clubs, and Lukaku’s disappointing season seems to back that theory up. Ironically, he is now doing the exact same thing again by returning to Inter. However, I suspect his return to Italy will work out considerably better purely because he will be with a team willing to mould itself around him.
Although technically he is only going back to the San Siro on loan, one way or another you would expect to see it become permanent. Even if Lukaku scores 40 goals next season I can’t see any way back for him at Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel has obviously decided he doesn’t want to change Chelsea’s style to fit Lukaku (which does make you wonder if he sanctioned the move in the first place) and that suggests only a change of manager could possibly give Romelu a future at the Bridge.
And that won’t be happening any time soon.
Golf star united at the top
When Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Open golf tournament last week, he finally cemented his place as one of the stars of the game after flirting with the top of the sport for several years.
But while his achievement is amazing and fantastic, by my reckoning he is the 90th different player to win the US Open, which means his crown is hardly a unique one. What is, however, utterly unique is that he became the first person in history to win a major golf title while simultaneously holding a Sheffield United season ticket.
There’s your unique selling point, Matt.
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