Julie Bindel Julie Bindel

Lia Thomas and the slow death of women’s sports

Lia Thomas (Photo: Getty)

This week, Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to be crowned National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion, winning the 500-yard freestyle in Georgia, US. The crowd was muted, and no wonder. Thomas spent around 20 years as a man and started competing against women in swimming only last year before becoming a national champion.

Feminism is about ending the oppression of women (by men) and not about claiming there are no differences between the sexes. One thing is clear: there are some things that we cannot compete with men in and one of those competitive sports.

Scientific papers have clearly shown that that those who have undergone male puberty retain significant advantages in power and strength, even after taking medication to suppress their testosterone levels.

Why will girls bother to reach the peak of their game if some bloke can come along and take it from them?

As the sports scientist professor Ross Tucker wrote in 2019: ‘At any level, across any range, the top 100 (way more, actually, add a zero) in open competition between all humans would be won, without any exception, by those who benefit from testosterone’s effects on muscle, skeleton, heart, blood and fat.’ The science could not be clearer.

Imagine a girl who has trained all of her life as a swimmer. Through backbreaking hard work and obsessive dedication, she reaches the top of her game and is ranked number one in the world. Then a male competitor transitions to female, competes against her, and takes the first prize. I actually don’t care whether these individual transwomen genuinely believe they are women or if they are being opportunistic. It is still grossly unfair.

When I was newly out as a lesbian, I watched Martina Navratilova play tennis. She blazed a trail for being openly lesbian in the 70s and 80s and was an important role model for all female athletes.

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