How many phone calls do you think the Australian Olympic Committee has fielded in the past six years from petrified sports federations anxious about what to do with transgender athletes?
Take a shot. Hundreds? Dozens? A dozen?
Try one. One phone call. Six years.
So much for platoons of male athletes rushing off for gender reassignment and hormone treatment so they can snatch Olympic gold out of the hands of female athletes. So much for the end of sport as we know it.
FINA’s decision to ban transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s events is the problematic but right call for a complex and highly politicised issue – but it’s time to give it some context.
At last count, this decision will immediately affect one athlete: American swimmer Lia Thomas. At last count, you needed one hand to tally the number of athletes across all Olympic sports who identify as transgender.
Lia Thomas became a transgender champion in US college swimming.Credit:AP
Nobody should discount the importance nor complexity of this issue for both female athletes and transgender competitors at every level of sport.
But the amount of debate and venom spat from both sides is grossly disproportionate with the number of athletes these policies will cover.
I blame politicians and I blame the media because it’s a lightning rod issue that attracts votes and clicks and not much common sense or compassion for a group of human beings who have become a punching bag for anyone with an upcoming Netflix special.
FINA has been grappling with the transgender genie since 2018, trying to find a solution to an unsolvable problem.
South Africa’s double Olympic champion Caster Semenya.Credit:AP
Herald columnist Darren Kane summed it up perfectly in May: “The choice, between the blackness and whiteness of men’s and women’s sporting competition, sits impossibly at odds with the range of colours of which the spectrum of gender is composed.”
In the end, FINA found that inclusion is important but, at the elite level, fairness is more important.
As expected, other sports are rushing to implement their own policy. IAAF boss Sebastian Coe is tying himself in knots, as he does. Let’s hope Lord Coe handles this issue with greater poise and grace than he did with South African runner Caster Semenya, who is an intersex woman.
What few saw coming was that the global powerhouse of rugby league would take the leap of faith a day after FINA.
The International Rugby League announced on Tuesday it was banning transgender footballers from this weekend’s round of representative matches and the World Cup later in the year.
Thanks for clarifying that, IRL. At last count, there were precisely zero transgender players who had signalled an intention to play in women’s matches this weekend nor at the World Cup.
A picture has been conveniently painted of transgender athletes changing the face of sport as we know it. Of the floodgates bursting open and hundreds of trans people taking over local football clubs and swimming pools and the Olympics and maybe even State of Origin and the Super Bowl.
One commentator called FINA’s directive “one of the most important decisions in the history of sport”. Sport has been saved! Hallelujah! Can I get an amen!
I’d suggest sport has greater concerns than a policy change that affects less than one per cent of the population. Concerns like doping, corruption and match-fixing.
Perhaps we’ll get a better picture of how deep this issue runs when we see how many competitors enter “open” events, as per FINA’s policy.
In the meantime, sport at the amateur level requires a more compassionate and less — dare I say it — binary approach than most are doing now.
Female athletes need to be protected. So does the purity of sport. As difficult as this might seem to some, so do transgender people.
If only there was as much empathy for those who have faced tougher, more perplexing issues than lacing up a boot or diving into a pool.
“The biggest misconception is the reason I transitioned,” Thomas said in an interview with ABC News and ESPN earlier this year. “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself.”
Somewhere along the line, that has been forgotten.
Big three back to bedevil Blues
Cameron Munster isn’t the Queenslander I fear most heading into State of Origin I — it’s Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston.
For years, the trio hunted as a pack for Queensland, with Smith darting out of dummy half while Slater sat on his left shoulder, Thurston on his right, and now they are back to terrorise every small child this side of the Tweed who can’t remember the nightmarish days of eight consecutive series losses.
Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater tormented the Blues as players, and are now doing the same as Queensland coaches.Credit:Getty
Slater and Thurston only retired in 2018, and Smith in 2020, so they understand the modern-day game and modern-day player better than any modern-day coach.
Slater and Smith flagged before game one in Sydney they would shut down the Blues at the ruck, particularly Damien Cook and James Tedesco, and they did. Even then, NSW didn’t take advantage of the inevitable space out wide.
Needing to win game two at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Sunday, NSW have followed Queensland’s lead and picked two hookers — Cook and Penrith’s Api Koroisau — and a smaller, more agile pack.
Which seems like the right move but is also worrying because NSW have effectively shown their hand. Reckon the old firm of Slater, Smith and Thurston won’t be hatching a plan while the children of NSW sleep?
Qudos for Kambosos?
Avid readers of this column — yes, all three of them — will recall we strongly urged George “Ferocious” Kambosos to stage his next fight at Qudos Bank Arena following his loss to American Devin Haney.
The ring was too far away from Kambosos’ very loud supporters at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.
No, this Spartan warrior requires a more intimate setting and Qudos — the home of the Sydney Kings and the odd Fleetwood Mac concert — would be ideal.
It can now be revealed that the Kambosos camp is eyeing off a potential rematch against Haney at the arena in October.
George Kambosos cops some punishment from Devin Haney during their title fight at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.Credit:Getty
Kambosos last week triggered his rematch clause to fight Haney, who defeated the Sydney fighter comfortably earlier this month.
Whether it happens again remains to be seen. Boxing contracts seem to hold as much weight as those in rugby league.
But if it happens again, there’s every chance it will be at Qudos and, if that’s the case, I would like a clip of the gate takings for coming up with the idea in the first place.
Turbo recall proves popular
There was a lot of love for Jake Trbojevic following our revelation in this space last week that he would be recalled for Origin II, which indeed happened.
This from reader Peter was among the best: “My daughter worked at a sponsors’ function/dinner for the winning Blues side a few years ago. All the Blues players and staff were very courteous, respectful and friendly. After the function was finished and just the staff were in the function room cleaning up, two of the Blues made a point of returning to the room to thank the staff personally — Jake and his brother Tom. No fanfare, no press, no photos. Only them and some grateful young staff. I am sure their parents would be as proud of this as much as their footy achievements.”
“I’m not going to lie — I’m hungover right now.” — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr after landing back in San Francisco the day after his side won the NBA championship finals series against Boston. What a coincidence! So is half of Herald sport.
Commentating great Bruce McAvaney stole the show at the Logie Awards. He received a standing ovation as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame before reeling off a typical Bruce speech full of typical Bruce humility and emotion. Earlier, on the red carpet, the 68-year-old said he had no intention of retiring any time soon, even if he was cutting back.
Collingwood star Jordan de Goey took off mid-season to Bali and ripped right in, as one does. Then he was captured on social media post ripping off the bikini of a female acquaintance. The post went viral, he came out swinging at the intrusiveness of the AFL media, then days later backed down and apologised and blamed his ADHD for his behaviour. OK, then.
It’s a big weekend for … the NSW women’s team as it tries to snap Queensland’s run of three consecutive State of Origin victories when the sides meet at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Friday night. Watch out for Blues enforcer Sarah Togatuki off the bench. She was the star for the Roosters in the NRLW grand final, folding opposition players like deckchairs.
It’s an even bigger weekend for … New Zealand and Mate Ma’a Tonga as they do battle in the first rugby league match at Mt Smart Stadium in three years. Both sides are stacked with quality players. The Kiwis look stronger but underestimate Tonga — as others have — at your peril. Should be absolute scenes in Auckland on Saturday. Might fly over.
Watch the State of Origin exclusively live and free on Channel 9 and 9Now.
News, results and expert analysis from the weekend of sport sent every Monday. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.
Most Viewed in Sport
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article