Robert Ciervo: We must protect integrity of female athletics | TribLIVE.com
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Robert Ciervo: We must protect integrity of female athletics

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In the ongoing debate about protecting the integrity of female athletics, I firmly believe female track athletes should only have to compete against their peers — not biological males, regardless of how those male athletes identify in terms of gender, which is a man-made construct.

As a former Division I track athlete and coach, I am well aware of the biological advantage males have over biological females in strength, speed and endurance. That is the reason biological men hold every record in every track and field event. And it is not even close in some events, where a female has the fifth fastest time or sixth longest jump or throw in the world. There are 657 men who have run 1:46.00 or faster for the 800 meters, while the women’s world record is 1:53.28. There are thousands of men who have run faster than 1:53 just in the past 25 years alone.

Here are two examples to make these biological differences clear.

Both men and women compete in the shot put in the NCAA. The men’s shot is 16.01 pounds and the women’s is 8.8 pounds. If there were no clear differences between men and women in strength, then obviously women would be able to throw the shot much farther than men, given their object is almost half as light as the men’s. The NCAA record for women’s shot put is 63 feet, 10¼ inches. The men’s record is 72 feet, ¼ inches.

The 800-meter run requires an almost equal mix of speed and endurance. If there were no clear differences between men and women in these traits, we would see near equal times in this event. Examining the top or even average times of boys and girls, all the way to elite professionals, demonstrates biological men have about a 15-second advantage in this race (the 16 and under records are 1:50 for boys and 2:04 for girls; the NCAA records are 1:43 for men and 1:59 for women). That is about a 100-meter head start — a greater advantage than any blood doping or illegal steroid use could ever produce for an 800 meter runner, and remember: We have drug testing systems at the NCAA and professional level to disqualify anyone using those forms of cheating.

There are thousands of high school and college boys who can run a 1:59 for the 800 meters. To allow a biological male to enter a female high school or college 800-meter race and be scored as a female competitor is unfair to every female in that race, unless that male runner had to have a 100-meter handicap or start 15 seconds after the gun went off. It would be both impractical and awkward to attempt that.

A middle ground would be to allow biological males who identify as female to be part of a female college or high school team and run in the meets and heats but not to have their times, throws and jumps be scored against the female competitors.

Allowing biological males to compete against and take places and championships away from female student-athletes is unfair to those females who, through months and months of dedicated training and persistence, have run elite-level times. No elite-level female high school or college student-athlete should be denied their rightful opportunity at winning because others who know little about competition and biology would like a certain political or cultural agenda to prevail.

My daughters (ages 10 and 12) compete in youth track and field and cross-country competitions. I would never pull them out of a meet where a biological male was allowed to compete, but I would use it as a teachable moment to demonstrate how adults can make improper and unfair decisions when confronted with a complicated problem by taking the easier road out. For competitive athletes, the easier road is never the option.

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