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Why 'Real Champions' Don’t Need to Embrace Unfair Competition

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

This weekend, cyclist Rachel McKinnon won a world championship in Manchester England…again.

I understand that for casual sports enthusiasts (those who don’t subscribe to ESPN’s “The Ocho”), this information might not seem particularly newsworthy. Stay with me, it’s about to get interesting. Rachel McKinnon is a biological male. And Rachel just won gold in the women’s 2019 Masters Track Cycling World Championships for the second year in a row.


Before you question whether men should be competing in female athletics based on gender identity, consider these words from Rachel: “I have yet to meet a real champion who has a problem with trans women. Real champions want stronger competition. If you win because bigotry got your competition banned…you’re a loser.”

There it is. Only a sore losing bigot would object to a man participating in female athletics because “real champions want stronger competition.” 

Here’s the rub. There is a difference between stronger competition and unfair competition. True champions do want the former, which is why top athletes express regret when an opponent is out due to injury…they want to compete against the best. But true champions also want fair competition. I have yet to hear LeBron James say that other teams should be allowed to have six players on the court when facing off against him. Michael Phelps never suggested that other swimmers should enter the water before him to make his Olympic quest more challenging. 

We have referees, umpires, governing bodies, drug testing, and little things called rule books to ensure that competition is fair. And when it isn’t, everyone (including “real champions”) are justifiably outraged. Remember when that other cyclist – Lance Armstrong – got in a teeny bit of trouble for doping? He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, lost millions of dollars in endorsements, and generally went from America’s favorite hero to a vilified zero.


Did we get it wrong? Should we have continued celebrating Lance Armstrong despite his choice to utilize various banned substances (including testosterone) to obtain an advantage over other riders? After all, wasn’t he simply “strengthening” the competition? 

Rachel says this situation is different: “My body doesn't produce testosterone anymore. And it hasn't for nearly a decade. Draw your own conclusions.”

In other words, “stronger competition” has nothing to do with male versus female distinctions. Incredibly, those who advocate for men in women’s sports deny or feign ignorance as to whether men have an unfair advantage. One common claim, as seen here, is that testosterone suppressants eliminate any advantage men would otherwise have over women. Thus, any objection to the influx of “stronger competition” must be transphobic.

Not so fast. In the Federalist, Mackenzie Bettle discusses a 2018 study from the Journal of Medical Ethics, which found that healthy males “did not lose significant muscle mass (or power)” even when suppressing their testosterone levels below the International Olympic Committee guidelines. 

Bettle continues: “Further, it found these biological males could retain their muscle mass through training and that because of muscle memory, their mass and strength could be ‘rebuilt’ through training. It also found that giving opposite-sex hormones to transgender people post-puberty did not alter the athletic-enhancing effects of testosterone on the male body.”


You see, we don’t need to draw our own conclusions because science is drawing them for us. Anecdotal examples and comments from sports luminaries including tennis icon Martina Navratilova only serve to underscore the objective scientific facts: allowing men to compete in women’s athletics is unfair. 

Why then are advocates of transgender ideology so determined to force this issue? Why is there no middle ground when it comes to men competing in women’s sports? LGBT advocacy groups like the Human Rights Coalition insist “[t]ransgender women are women regardless of whether they were born male.” Does “inclusion” mandate interchangeability and the dismissal of reality?

It shouldn’t.

Disregarding biological differences between men and women has disastrous consequences. In women’s sports, it denies girls like Selina Soule a fair opportunity to compete. In schools, businesses, and other facilities, it throws open the doors of locker rooms, restrooms and showers to the opposite sex. Even organizations that exist to protect battered women have been asked to prioritize inclusion over common sense and safety.

Individuals who struggle with gender identity deserve respect, not ridicule. They should be shown compassion, not contempt. The also deserve to hear the truth. Endorsing a fiction in a misguided attempt to preserve feelings is neither respectful nor compassionate. Men are not women. To claim otherwise is wrong and deceptive. 


It’s time to have an honest conversation about men participating in women’s sports. But even more, it’s time to have straight talk about human sexuality. Conceding reality isn’t bigoted, it’s reasoned. Observing biological differences isn’t transphobic, it’s scientific. And it’s the only basis for true freedom, actual fairness, and equal treatment under the law.

James Gottry is an attorney and Vice President of Public Policy for the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute

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