On Monday, the Board of Governors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued a statement “firmly and unequivocally” supporting the participation of biological males on women’s collegiate athletic teams.
The NCAA has a long-standing policy of permitting biological males who undergo testosterone suppression treatment to compete in women’s sports.
Although the NCAA claims its policy is based on principles of inclusion, it in fact makes college athletics less inclusive—and far less fair—for women and girls. In fact, the NCAA’s policy undermines the express purpose of Title IX, which Congress passed forty-nine years ago to expand opportunities for women and girls.
Federal regulations implementing Title IX require schools, colleges, and universities that receive federal money to “provide equal athletic opportunity for members of both sexes,” 34 C.F.R. § 106.41(c) (emphasis added). To support this mission, the regulations explicitly allow schools to operate single-sex teams. 34 C.F.R. § 106.41(b).
As a result of the male athletic advantage, even the top female athletes usually lose to much lower-ranked male athletes. Indeed, starting in puberty, in almost every sport—except, perhaps, sailing and horseback riding—significant numbers of boys and men will always beat the best girls and women in head-to-head competition. To illustrate the point, Olympic runner Allyson Felix’s 400-meter lifetime best is 49.26 seconds. Yet, in a single year, men and boys around the world outperformed her more than 15,000 times.
Contrary to the NCAA’s suggestion, suppressing testosterone post-puberty does not completely eliminate the male athletic advantage. Transgender athlete and medical doctor Joanna Harper acknowledges as much when she says that even after 15+ years of testosterone suppression, she still carries more muscle mass than women her size.
In response to policies and proposed federal legislation that would mandate transgender participation in women’s sports, lawmakers in at least 25 states have proposed measures that require athletes to compete in the sex category listed on their original birth certificates.
Out of fear of retaliation from the NCAA, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem recently rejected a proposal to require that college athletes compete in the category of their sex at birth.
In its statement released on Monday, the NCAA threatens that it will not hold tournaments in locations that prohibit transgender athletes from competing in women’s collegiate sport:
We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.
Of course, forcing female athletes to compete (for the win, for scholarships, or for spots on the team) against male-bodied athletes is neither “welcoming” nor “respectful” of women. Under the guise of inclusion, the NCAA has decided to put female athletes last.