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Supreme Court of the United States

Are Female Olympians on Their Way Out?

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
August 6, 2021

It’s been five long years. But the wait is finally over.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are here! And they have certainly not disappointed.

As a former collegiate swimmer, I’ve watched in awe as female athletes have broken barriers and records. I applauded as Anastasija Zolotic became the first American woman to win gold in taekwondo and as weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz earned the Philippine’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. I cried watching 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby become the first Alaskan to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. I cheered as Katie Ledecky took home gold in the 1500-meter freestyle, the first time the event was included in Olympic competition.

My swimming days are behind me now, but I still feel the pride and the inspiration that I felt as a young girl watching my heroes compete in the Olympics. I can say with confidence that having women to look up to in the swimming world pushed me to be a better athlete.

But the landscape of women’s sports is quickly changing. And before long, those female heroes may become fewer and fewer.

Why? Because of policies like that of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which permits male athletes to compete against women if they identify as a woman. This has given way to the first openly transgender athletes competing in the Olympic Games this year—including the likes of Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old male athlete who competed on behalf of New Zealand in the women’s weightlifting event.

Let me count the ways that this is a problem.

Ultimately, science and common sense tell us that males are generally bigger, faster, and stronger than females. They have larger hearts and lungs, denser bones, and stronger muscles. No amount of testosterone suppression can undo all those advantages.

The biological reality is that men and women are different, and those differences matter. When our laws and policies ignore this reality, it is girls and women who suffer the consequences. In the case of the Olympics, female athletes are kept from competing for their country when they would otherwise have qualified.

Unfortunately, girls and women across the U.S. have already been dealing with the fallout from similar policies.

Just ask Chelsea Mitchell .

As a high school track athlete—the top-ranked runner in Connecticut, in fact—Chelsea was forced to compete against two male athletes. Because of a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) policy, which allows males who identify as female to compete against girls, Chelsea lost four women’s state championship titles and two all-New England awards .

Chelsea is not the only one who felt the impact of this policy, either. Over three years, more than 80 female athletes were bumped out of qualifying for higher levels of competition during numerous events.

And that’s just two male athletes. Think of the devastating impact that policies like these could have over the coming years...and at the next Olympics.

That’s why Chelsea is taking a stand. Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Chelsea and three other female athletes in a challenge to the CIAC policy.

As Chelsea wrote recently in The Economist : “ Sports [organizations] like the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the IOC claim that their policies are about inclusivity, but what those policies really do is exclude women from their own sporting events.”

Watching the Olympics growing up, I always came away with the message: “This could be you one day.”

But if policies like the IOC’s and CIAC’s continue, young girls will instead come away with the message: “Why even try?”

As Chelsea wrote:

Competing in the Olympics is the crowning experience of an athlete’s life, and winning…well, that is the dream every athletic boy or girl [harbors] deep inside. It is not fair to tell girls who have worked for years and committed their lives, energy and very selves to athletic excellence that, in the name of “inclusion” and “diversity,” they must resign themselves to being beaten by athletes with the inherent, unfair physical advantages that come from being male. True inclusivity, true diversity, true competition, true fairness—they all demand that we find another solution.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.


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