Fair play ques­tions raised af­ter wrestler’s vic­to­ries

Trans­gen­der high school ath­lete us­ing testos­terone comes un­der fire

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

The same per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing ac­tiv­ity that got Rus­sian ath­letes banned from the Olympic Win­ter Games may have helped a trans­gen­der male ath­lete win the girls’ Texas high school wrestling cham­pi­onship.

Mack Beggs, who was born a girl but iden­ti­fies as male, is just the lat­est trans­gen­der ath­lete whose achieve­ments have raised ques­tions about how to let every­one com­pete with­out cre­at­ing an un­even play­ing field.

The Texas agency that gov­erns high school ath­let­ics re­quires ath­letes to com­pete as the sex listed on their birth cer­tifi­cates.

At­tor­ney Jim Baud­huin, a fa­ther of a wrestler who un­suc­cess­fully filed a law­suit to pre­vent Mack from com­pet­ing while un­der­go­ing testos­terone ther­apy treat­ments last year, said it’s not fair to al­low some ath­letes to use per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs.

“Mack shouldn’t have been wrestling against the girls any more than the East Ger­man women shouldn’t have been show­ing up at com­pe­ti­tions with chest hair and deep voices,” Mr. Baud­huin said. “It’s dop­ing. If you’re one of the other ath­letes, you don’t care why she’s tak­ing it. The phys­i­o­log­i­cal ef­fects on the body aren’t any dif­fer­ent whether you’re tak­ing it to tran­si­tion or tak­ing it to dope.”

Mack, a se­nior at Eu­less Trin­ity High School who for­merly went by Macken­zie, de­feated Chelsea Sanchez of Mor­ton Ranch High School on Satur­day to claim the 6A 110-pound ti­tle for the sec­ond year in a row.

Mack held the lead late in the match but was nearly pinned be­fore flip­ping his op­po­nent onto her back to claim the ti­tle. A cas­cade of boos and some cheers rained down as Mack turned to each sec­tion of the crowd and pointed to his heart.

The wrestler’s mother, An­gela McNew, dis­missed the no­tion that Mack was “beat­ing up on girls.”

“The girls he wres­tles with, they are tough,” Ms. McNew told the Dal­las Morn­ing News. “It has more to do with skill and dis­ci­pline than strength.”

Kayla Fitts, a se­nior at Cy­press Ranch High School who had 52 wins and no losses be­fore fall­ing to Mack in Satur­day’s semi­fi­nals, said the trans­gen­der wrestler’s strength “def­i­nitely was the dif­fer­ence.”

Asked whether she thought it was fair that she had to wres­tle against Mack, she re­sponded, “No.”

“I un­der­stand if you want to tran­si­tion your gen­der,” Kayla told the Dal­las Morn­ing News. “I un­der­stand that to­tally. But there’s a time and a place. You can do that af­ter high school. Or if you want to do it, you can quit the sport. Be­cause I don’t think it’s fair at all that you’re tak­ing testos­terone. That’s steroids. I know it’s not a lot. But still.”

Mack’s road to last year’s state cham­pi­onship in­cluded sev­eral for­feits by girls who feared they would be in­jured. Mr. Baud­huin said par­ents in the wrestling com­mu­nity be­came con­cerned last sea­son by the trans­gen­der wrestler’s in­creas­ingly mas­cu­line ap­pear­ance.

“She be­gan to show up at tour­na­ments no­tice­ably more mas­cu­line — need­ing to shave and things like that,” Mr. Baud­huin said. “It was ob­vi­ous that the testos­terone was start­ing to take ef­fect. Par­ents were start­ing to get up­set, be­cause Mack at this point was so much more ag­gres­sive than other girls. You could see the dif­fer­ence.”

The Univer­sity In­ter­scholas­tic League, the body that gov­erns high school ath­let­ics in Texas, forced Mack to com­pete against girls be­cause of a reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing stu­dents to com­pete in the di­vi­sion of the sex listed on their birth cer­tifi­cates.

The agency’s rules also pro­hibit steroid use un­less pre­scribed by a li­censed prac­ti­tioner for a valid med­i­cal pur­pose.

Texas cut the fund­ing for a pro­gram that tested high school ath­letes for an­abolic steroids in 2015, but the reg­u­la­tions against per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs are still in ef­fect. Ath­letes are re­quired to sign an agree­ment not to use steroids in or­der to com­pete.

Mack ex­pressed a de­sire to com­pete against boys each of the last two years, but the Univer­sity In­ter­scholas­tic League pre­vi­ously said it had never re­ceived an of­fi­cial re­quest from an ath­lete to change di­vi­sions.

Ath­letes and testos­terone

When asked about the rule that forced Mack to com­pete with girls, a spokesper­son for the league re­ferred to the agency’s FAQ page. A sub­se­quent re­quest for com­ment was not re­turned.

Ath­letic as­so­ci­a­tions rang­ing from the Olympics to the NCAA have grap­pled with how to let trans­gen­der ath­letes com­pete while up­hold­ing the in­tegrity of their sports.

Guide­lines adopted by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee in 2016 al­lowed bi­o­log­i­cally fe­male ath­letes to com­pete against males “with­out re­stric­tion.” Bi­o­log­i­cal males who wish to com­pete against fe­males are re­quired to demon­strate that their testos­terone lev­els are be­neath a cer­tain level one year be­fore their first com­pe­ti­tion.

The NCAA Of­fice of In­clu­sion is­sued sim­i­lar poli­cies in 2011 re­quir­ing bi­o­log­i­cally fe­male ath­letes who use testos­terone to fa­cil­i­tate their tran­si­tions to com­pete on men’s teams. Ath­letes who iden­tify as women are el­i­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in women’s di­vi­sions only af­ter un­der­go­ing testos­terone sup­pres­sion treat­ment for one cal­en­dar year.

“Re­search sug­gests that an­dro­gen de­pri­va­tion and cross sex hor­mone treat­ment in male-to-fe­male trans­sex­u­als re­duces mus­cle mass; ac­cord­ingly, one year of hor­mone ther­apy is an ap­pro­pri­ate tran­si­tional time be­fore a male-to-fe­male stu­dent-ath­lete com­petes on a women’s team,” Dr. Eric Vi­lain, a fac­ulty mem­ber at UCLA’s In­sti­tute for So­ci­ety and Ge­net­ics, said in the re­port.

Repub­li­cans in the Texas Se­nate passed a bill in 2017 that would have banned ath­letes if their med­i­cally pre­scribed steroid use led to un­fair or un­safe com­pe­ti­tion, but the leg­is­la­tion died in the House with­out a vote.

Mr. Baud­huin con­demned the Univer­sity In­ter­scholas­tic League’s in­ac­tion, say­ing it should have adopted a pol­icy sim­i­lar to the NCAA’s.

“The UIL is just a bu­reau­cracy,” he said. “They’re go­ing to kick the can down the road and hope the prob­lem goes away. No­body wants to do the job, no­body wants to lead, no­body wants to be re­spon­si­ble about any­thing, they just want the prob­lem to go away.”

LGBT ac­tivists rec­om­mend reg­u­lat­ing ath­letic pro­grams on the ba­sis of gen­der iden­tity, with­out ref­er­ence to the med­i­cal pro­ce­dures a trans­gen­der ath­lete may or may not have un­der­gone.

A re­port is­sued in 2015 by the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, ti­tled “Schools in Tran­si­tion: A Guide for Sup­port­ing Trans­gen­der Stu­dents in K-12 Schools,” said fears about trans­gen­der ath­letes hav­ing an un­fair com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage are “un­founded and of­ten grounded in sex stereo­types about the dif­fer­ences and abil­i­ties of males ver­sus fe­males.”

Ryan T. An­der­son, a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, said ac­knowl­edg­ing bi­o­log­i­cal re­al­ity shouldn’t be con­sid­ered big­otry.

“High school girls and boys should not wres­tle against each other,” Mr. An­der­son, the au­thor of “When Harry Be­came Sally: Re­spond­ing to the Trans­gen­der Move­ment,” said in a state­ment. “High school girls should not take testos­terone. High school girls who are tak­ing testos­terone should not wres­tle against other girls.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mack Beggs’ road to last year’s state cham­pi­onship in­cluded sev­eral for­feits by girls who feared they would be in­jured. Mack has ex­pressed a de­sire to com­pete against boys each of the last two years, but has not been al­lowed to change di­vi­sions.

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