Providing fairness on the playing field

Published on June 20th, 2022

When the first women’s event was included in the Olympic Sailing Program for the 1988 Games, the door opened to support further growth of women in the sport. This progress will be on display at the Paris 2024 Olympics when there will be gender balance among participants and events.

Much like the Virginia Slims advertising slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

However, with the intent of gender based events to provide fairness on the playing field, this structure is feeling pressure as transgender people test the rules.

This notably occurred in women’s professional tennis when Renée Richards played professionally from 1977 to 1981, and if not for her advanced age, Richards could have created much more disruption.

“When I was #1 in the world, I struggled to beat Renée,” shared tennis star Chris Evert. “She was 43. Renee has said if she had been 25, she would’ve wiped everyone off the court.”

Martina Navratilova added, “Chris and I knew Renée had an advantage as we both had difficult matches against her. We won because we were better at that point. Renée now also recognizes that advantage and thinks she should not have been allowed to compete.”

Among the Sailing events for Paris 2024, an elite transgender sailor would likely dominate the women’s competition, and while there are no instances where this is occurring, Swimming’s world governing body (FINA) recently issued a new policy for transgender athletes.

Following how the first openly transgender woman won a College Division I women’s swimming title earlier this year, FINA’s new regulations requires transgender competitors to have completed their transition by age 12 to be able to compete in women’s competitions.

Cycling’s governing body also recently updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter limits that will force riders to wait longer before they can compete.

Since the International Olympic Committee has called for each international sports federation to assess the impact of strength on its competition, and initiate regulations to insure fairness, this is an issue that every Olympic sport – Sailing included – must address.

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