IOC Approves Transsexual Olympic Athletes

The International Olympic Committee executive board this month approved a measure that will allow athletes who have undergone sex change surgery to compete in Olympic events under their reassigned gender.

The new policy goes into effect in time for this summer’s Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Athletes who want to compete as transsexuals will have to prove that they have undergone at least a minimum two-year regimen of hormones following sexual reassignment surgery.

The IOC and transsexual activists argue that the fear of men who have sex change operations having an unfair advantage competing in women’s sports will never materialize because the hormone therapy causes testosterone levels and muscle mass to decline. But they conveniently forget that men have other advantages, including increased average heart and lung capacity.

Besides, this is just the foot in the door. At the Gay Games V in Amsterdam, for example, the organizers of that event were accused of bigotry for requiring the sort of proof of completion of the sex change operation that the IOC is requiring. Look for that sort of accusation to be directed at the IOC down the road.


Committee clears transsexuals for Olympics. Associated Press, May 17, 2004.

Transsexuals and Sports

The British Parliament of late has been considering the Gender Recognition Bill whose primary purpose is to allow transsexual individuals to formally re-register their gender to their newly reassigned gender, replacing for most legal purpose the gender of their birth. And, of course, this immediately created a debate about the most important related topic — the issue of transsexuals competing in sports competitions.

As originally drafted, the Gender Recognition Bill appeared to require both domestic and international sporting events to allow transsexuals to compete in their re-assigned genders. So a person born male who later decided to register his gender as female would have been allowed to compete in sporting events as a woman.

This caused great furor, in large part because reactions to this possibility cut to the very core of whether or not gender can genuinely be reassigned. As Kevin Myers wrote in an op-ed for The Telegraph,

We can pretend that we are able to turn men into women and vice versa, but that is not true. We merely give the appearance of doing so to help those unfortunates who feel that they have been born into the wrong sex; and maybe they genuinely have been. Or maybe they have got other psychological problems which become manifest in a gender-identity crisis. Either way, rightly or wrongly, medical science has taken the surgical and endocrinal route of rough-hewing a reasonable facsimile of the desired sex out of the raw material of the undesired sex. The result is usually unconvincing, but it nonetheless brings some peace to troubled people’s minds.

Neither law nor science can transform the physical substance of a woman into a man, or vice versa. And we are doing no justice to ourselves or trans-sexuals by pretending that an authentic bodily consecration can [sic] occurred, and that one sex can be transubstantiated into the other. This cannot happen.

Following the debate, the sponsors of the bill largely acquiesced to Myers’ view, announcing that there would, of course, be special exemptions to the bill where sports are concerned. According to The Guardian,

Under the government’s new gender recognition bill, which comes into force next year, transsexuals will legally be recognized as members of their new gender. However, sport is to be a given special exemption from certain elements of the bill because it is felt that some transsexual athletes might have an unfair advantage in some sports, particularly physical ones.

The medical panels will examine areas such as testosterone levels, physique and an athlete’s mental state before making their decision. If it is felt that a transsexual athlete has an unfair advantage then the panel will be allowed to prevent them from competing.

So which is it, then? Is a male-born female really a woman, or simply a man with slight cosmetic changes to the outward physical appearance? And if the answer is no when it comes to sports, why should it be yes for other areas?


What next? Martin Johnson to be Martina? Kevin Meyers, Telegraph (UK), December 21, 2003.

Sport panel to rule on transsexuals. Vivek Chaudhary, The Guardian, December 20, 2003.

Group to Sue Government Over Title IX

A group representing various college coaching groups recently announced plans to sue the U.S. Department of Education over the way it enforces Title IX.

The Bush administration convened a Commission on Opportunity in Athletics to examine Title IX enforcement, but then ignored the commission’s findings. So the College Sports Council is headed back to court with a two-prong legal strategy.

First, it wants an appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit it filed challenging the Department of Education’s Title IX enforcement. THat lawsuit was thrown out by a District Court in June. That lawsuit challenges a Clinton-era interpretation of Title IX that many coaches blame for the elimination of men’s sports across the country.

Second, the group is filing a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s January 2003 decision not to repeal that interpretation of Title IX.

At issue is the Clinton-era interpretation which requires the male-female ratio in sports to approximate the male-female enrollment level in the college. This has been difficult to achieve at many schools without simply eliminating sports (with sports like wrestling and gymnastics taking the biggest hits). As women continue to be disproportionately represented in colleges and universities, this will become a bigger problem in coming years.

The group also claims that the Department of Education is using Enron-style accounting in claiming that since 1980 a total of 36 additional men’s teams have been added across the country. The Department of Education points to that result to back up its claims that Title IX enforcement hasn’t harmed men’s sports.

The College Sports Council points out that this is fallacious since the newer data include 134 additional schools that were added to the Department of Education’s survey after 1980, which backs up the group’s point that colleges are shedding men’s teams at a rather high rate.


Groups to fight over Title IX enforcement. Ben Feller, Associated Press, August 14, 2003.

Coaches Launch Renewed Legal Challenge to Title IX Enforcement. Jim McCarthy, College Sports Council, August 15, 2003.

Lawsuit Challenging Title IX Dismissed on Procedural Grounds

In June a federal court dismissed a lawsuit that argued the U.S. Education Department was engaging in sexual discrimination against men in the way it was enforcing Title IX.

The National Wrestling Coaches Association and several other athletic groups sued the Education Department claiming that the department is using an illegal quota system that results not in more female athletes at colleges and universities, but rather the elimination of men’s programs. Typically the Education Department threatens to withdraw funding from schools unless the ratio of male to female students is not brought more in line with the ratio of male to female enrollment at the school.

Since colleges and universities often find it difficult to meet that requirement, they often simply opt to cut less visible men’s sports programs such as wrestling. Since Title IX became law in 1972, almost 65 percent of men’s collegiate wrestling teams have been eliminated.

But the federal court considering the lawsuit ruled that the coaches associations lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. U.S. District Court judge Edward Sullivan wrote,

[Before contemplating] the dramatic step of striking down a landmark civil rights statute’s regulatory enforcement scheme, the Court must take pains to ensure that the parties and allegations before it are such that the issues will be fully and fairly litigated.

In the court’s view, plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of persuasion

The Education Department formed a commission to look at Title IX enforcement which itself quickly bogged down in controversy, and in February Education Secretary Rod Paige said he would only consider recommendations from the commission that were unanimous.

Mike Moyer of the National Wrestling Coaches Association told the Associated Press that this was not the last word from his organization. “The fight is far from over,” Moyer told the AP. “Every day that goes by, and the quota system stays in place, men’s teams are going to continue to be eliminated in wholesale numbers.”


Wrestling coaches’ suit dismissed in federal court. Associated Press, June 12, 2003.

District Court drops Title IX case. Andrew Delaney, Daily Pennsylvanian, June 19, 2003.

U.S. Judge Rejects Wrestling Coaches’ Challenge to Title IX. David Savage, The Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2003.

Minnesota Bars Female Kicker Tryout

The University of Minnesota in April refused to allow junior Mary Nystrom to try out for a position as a kicker/punter for its football team, citing the lawsuit by Heather Mercer against Duke in justification.

Mercer was added to DUke’s football team in 1995. When she was cut by the team a year later, she sued the school for sexual discrimination. She won a $2 million verdict against Duke, but the verdict in her favor was later overturned by an appellate court.

Under Title IX, men’s teams are not obligated to give women athletes tryouts, but the Mercer lawsuit established that once they do give such tryouts they have to be prepared to justify any decision to cut a female applicant in court.

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason released a statement about Nystrom’s situation saying,

As many of you know, in contact sports such as football, Title IX explicitly exempts those sports from having to provide tryouts to female athletes. At this time we thought it was in the team’s best interest to limit the try out to male participation.

In December 2002, New Mexico’s Kate Hnida became the first woman to play in an NCAA Division I-A game. Hnida had her extra point attempt in the Las Vegas Bowl blocked.


Minnesota bars female kicker from football try out. Associated Press, April 18, 2003.

School blocks female student from tryout. Dennis Brackin, Scripps Howard, April 18, 2003.

Heather Mercer’s $2 Million Judgment Overturned on Appeal

In 2001 Heather Mercer won a $2 million sex discrimination lawsuit against Duke University — Mercer successfully argued that when she was cut as a kicker from Duke’s football team, that the coach’s decision was motivated by her gender rather than her kicking ability. This month, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District overturned that damage award, though not the verdict.

The trial court had imposed punitive damages but the appeals court ruled that such damages could not be assessed in private Title IX actions. The appeals court relied on a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Barnes v. Gorman, which disallowed punitive damages in a wide variety of discrimination lawsuits.

Both sides tried to spin the appeals court decision.

John Burness, Duke’s senior vice president for public affairs and government relations said,

We are pleased by the unanimous decision of the three-judge panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit to throw out the $2 million in punitive damages. Duke University remains committed to aggressively advancing our support for women’s athletics through implementation of our Title IX plan.

Meanwhile Mercer’s attorney, Burton Craige, countered,

This decision in no way diminishes Heather Sue’s victory at trial. This jury heard all the evidence and ruled that Duke discriminated against her based on her sex and that senior Duke administrators knew of the discrimination and responded with deliberate indifference.

Its a rather pyrrhic victory, however, given that the main lesson to emerge from the whole incident is that football coaches should not give female kickers tryouts if they want to avoid such lawsuits (a position that is completely legal under Title IX).


U.S. Appeals Court Overturns $2 Million Award in Duke University Female Football Player Case. Dave Ingram, The Chronicle (Duke University), November 18, 2002.