Athletics: who gets to compete as a “woman”?

Workout notes: weights only; I had “fasting blood work” this morning. I did lift though:
rotator cuff
squats (several sets of 5, with and without weight..goblet..focus on posture) then some leg presses
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (first one was terrible)
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 8 x 170
incline press: 10 x 135
military presses: standing: 7 x 50 dumbbell, 15 x 50 (seated, supported; trouble getting into position), 10 x 200 machine
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 50 dumbbell (each arm)
yoga leg lifts (2 sets of 10), twist crunch (2 sets of 12)
head stand (surprisingly easy)

The issue of “who gets to compete as a woman in the Olympics” has popped up again, mostly thanks to success of Saster Semenya. For an overview, see here.

On one hand, I think that this is a great issue. On the other hand, the discussion of this issue has been, well, brain-dead. (example). This issue concerns many female athletes.

Any discussion of this issue (or discussion worth having) should start here: why do we have a female category for competition to begin with? I think that the reason is clear: without such a restricted category (and yes, this means “fitting into a box” of sorts), women would not be competing.

Yes, all Olympic athletes are genetic outliers and the male outliers run faster and are stronger than the female outliers. So if you don’t want “all male” competitions, you need a female category, and that means that the female category is, by design, a restricted category. If you don’t meet the restrictions for the “female category”, you have to try to compete in the “open category”.

Of course, there will be genetic variations within the restricted category; I think that anyone with a rudimentary understanding of athletics knows this.

So what should the restrictions be? THAT is where the discussion needs to be. Sadly, the discussion that I am seeing is of very low quality. For example:

Eero Mantyranta, a Finnish cross-country skier who won seven Olympic medals in the 1960s, including three golds, was found to have a genetic mutation that increased his hemoglobin level to about 50 percent higher than the average man’s.

There is “no fundamental difference” between a congenital disorder that produces high testosterone levels and a genetic mutation that produces elevated hemoglobin levels, according to a recent commentary, “The Olympic Games and Athletic Sex Assignment,” in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Yet elevated levels of naturally occurring hemoglobin do not disqualify athletes.

Again, the “men’s category” is really an “open category”; one need only be a member of the homosapien category to qualify.

God made me the way I am, and I accept myself,” Semenya told You, a South African magazine, in 2009. “I am who I am, and I’m proud of myself.”

It would seem unfair to tell her, Sorry, you can’t run in the Olympics because of the way you were born.

Again, no one is saying that this athlete shouldn’t be allowed to compete for a spot in the Olympics. However, if Semenya (or anyone else) doesn’t qualify for the restricted category (female), then they have to attempt to qualify for the open category. And if Semenya isn’t naturally gifted enough to qualify for the Olympics in the open category, then Semenya can join the club of billions of the rest of us who aren’t genetically gifted enough to qualify for the Olympics.

Let me be clear about something though: I am not qualified to weigh in on what criteria should be met for a human being to compete as a female. I am interested in the question though.


August 22, 2016 - Posted by | weight training | ,

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