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Monday, February 27, 2017

Did Texas's UIL just say its ok for teenagers to Dope?

Editors note: Let me first start this post with the following background.  I  work with, know, and am friends with many LGBTAQ people. This includes transgender people.  I am willing to accept anyone who treats others with kindness and respect. Likewise, it is still important that we talk about the how we can make sure that everyone has the opportunity to compete in sport, while being fair.  It is better to resolve conflict than to let it fester.


In the world of the IOC and WADA, taking a steroid hormone like testosterone is considered DOPING.  There are now penalties for up to 4 years of suspension for taking testosterone among other hormones.  Likewise, in some very limited cases, an athlete is allowed to take male steroid hormones if they satisfy a "therapeutic use exemption" (TUE).

Recently, a teenage wrestler who was born a female and is taking testosterone, a male steroid hormone, to transition to male, won a girls wrestling division in Texas.

A brief synopsis of the story is such:
Mack Beggs was transitioning from their birth gender of female to "male".   They wanted to compete in the boy's division.  The UIL (University Interscholastic League) dictated that they had to compete in the division of their birth gender.  At the time they were competing,  they were openly taking steroid hormones to "transition to male".   This created a lose-lose situation where 1) Beggs had to compete as a girl, even though they were transitioning to male, and 2) the female athletes had to compete against an athlete with an unfair testosterone advantage or a "doped-up" athlete.

The UIL clearly prohibits doping such as taking of steroids.  This is evident as the UIL clearly references WADA in anti-doping policies, therefore, they were inconsistent with WADA guidelines on handling trans-athletes and doping.

How transgendered athletes on steroid hormones are supposed to be addressed
WADA's policy, to paraphrase is such: basically, a trans athlete has to take "hormone therapy" for two years, then they can compete in the "gender" division they desire.   It requires multiple medical exams and documentation as well as getting an approved TUE. The athlete is allowed to compete in the new "gender" only after 2 years of therapy. (one can argue, these guidelines are insufficient especially for male-to-female athletes as strength gains for a male during puberty are not erased by taking female hormones. This is another topic).

Balancing eachother's natural freedoms
On one hand, sports are so important to our culture because they help connect our physical reality to our spiritual reality.  It takes both heart, intellect, and physicality to be the best athlete.

Certainly, for a teen dealing with gender identity issues, it is probably a good thing for them to compete in a sport.

On the other hand, the UIL created a condition where an athlete was allowed to take steroid hormones, out of accordance with WADA guidelines, and still compete against clean athletes.

In the real world of professional and olympic sports, this is calling permitting DOPING.

In sports involving explosive strength like wrestling, track, and weightlifting, steroids can provide a huge advantage.  Just look at the re-tests of the Olympic drug tests from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games of weightlifters. Almost all the weightlifters who tested positive in the re-tests won medals. In effect, there is a documented competitive advantage of taking steroid hormones.

What the UIL should have done- be creative!

There are many ways we can give trans-kids the opportunity to compete whilst keeping the playing field fair to everyone else.  Here are some options:

Option 1- Probably the least safe and practical- everybody dopes
If the UIL is going to let Beggs take testosterone, then they need to let every other female athlete that Beggs was competing against take the same steroid hormones.  And, to make it even more fair, make sure their hormone levels are testing in the same range for the same length of time.

Option 2- What Beggs requested - compete as a trans-F-to-M Boy!
Have Beggs follow WADA guidelines for female to male trans athletes, then compete in the boy's division. ( note: This might also cause some inequities.  Boys, like girls, have a natural hormonal cycle.  Because Beggs is taking synthetic hormones at prescribed dosages, they may actually have an advantage of having level testosterone hormones year round)

Option 3-  Create an un-gendered division
Create some sort of "open division" where anyone can compete.  Maybe have males "transitioning" to female compete against females transitioning to male.

Option 4- Probably the most equitable but least feasible option
Create more than 2 gender divisions.  Do you know a tiny percent of the population is intersex?  There are people born with only an X chromosone. There are people born XXY (true "hermaphrodites"?). There are men born with vaginas. There are women born with penises.  And, then, of course, there are transgender people who feel, as Caitlyn Jenner put, " were born with the soul" of the opposite sex.

Any of the 4 options presented above would have been more fair then what went down this weekend in Texas.

(Side thoughts: Why did the UIL let this problem fester in the girls division. Would it have been more scandalous to the UIL for Beggs to have competed as  trans-boy in the boys division?  )


Conclusion

The UIL did none of the above. If anything what they did was lazy.  They forced an athlete in transition, to compete as a doped-up girl, when Beggs really wanted to just compete as a transgender-female-to-male boy.

By failing to take an equitable stance on Beggs' situation, the UIL created an environment where Beggs had an unfair advantage over their competitors.  If anything, the organization violated its own procedures on doping by allowing a trans athlete to compete in a manner inconsistent with WADA guidelines. As the UIL references WADA in their constitution, they should have simply enforced that Beggs to file a Therapeutic Use Exemption, complete all medical history documentation, and take hormones for a minimum of 2 years per  WADA guidelines.  Then and only then should Beggs compete and  compete in the boys division.


UIL's antithetical actions made a mockery of the sport. By not following their own references to WADA guidelines, they sent a message that "its ok to dope".  Because of their ( perhaps cowardly) actions, clean athletes were denied their rightful placements and Beggs was put in the awkward position of  competing as a doped up athlete. Basically, the UIL created a Lose/ Lose situation for all the wrestlers, including Beggs.

Final thoughts to the angry mob
Remember, this situation is due to adults failing kids. If anyone wants to be angry, then be angry at the UIL.

References:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/meet-the-texas-wrestler-who-won-a-girls-state-title-his-name-is-mack/2017/02/25/982bd61c-fb6f-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.48bd07586e97

http://www.uiltexas.org/site/search?cx=006910494062867778790%3Aaazkbtwv1gu&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&q=doping&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search

https://www.uiltexas.org/files/constitution/uil-ccr-section-1207-1210.pdf

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