Hall of Fame Coach/Transgender Woman Veronica Malone: Advantages of Transgender Women Extend to Psychological Scope

Veronica Malone

Hall of Fame Coach/Transgender Woman Veronica Malone: Advantages of Transgender Women Extend to Psychological Scope

With the transgender-participation debate still in the news, including in Australia at the moment, here is another look at the issue from Veronica Malone, a coach to multiple Olympians and a transgender woman.

During the four-plus months in which the Lia Thomas controversy and transgender participation have been major storylines in the sport, the physiological benefits of transgender women have received the greatest emphasis. A transgender woman who underwent male puberty, Thomas’ advantages were clear: Years of testosterone production. Enhanced lung capacity. Larger hands and feet. A 6-foot-3 frame.

At the NCAA Championships, Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle and advanced to the finals in two other events. The question: Are the parameters – which Thomas followed – set forth for transgender participation acceptable? Malone indicated they were not – and for multiple reasons.

“Everyone is writing and talking about (the) biological advantages,” said Veronica Malone, a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame and mentor to multiple Olympians (Mark Dean, Janie Wagstaff, Catherine Fox, Scott Goldblatt, Shannon Vreeland). “That’s all true and the science shows it. She’s post puberty, and how long is a major issue. But there’s also more to it.”

It has been 10 years since Peter Malone, the highly successful coach of the Kansas City Blazers, transitioned to Veronica. She is retired now but remains active in philanthropic ventures and providing opportunities for the LGBTQ community. She gave Swimming World permission to use her former name, noting: “I am not ashamed of Peter’s life. I am proud of what I have done, and I am not trying to block out that part of my life. A lot of the transgender community wants to feel they had a funeral for their previous existence. I don’t.”

Malone’s career highlights fill pages, ranging from her stints as a United States National Team coach on several occasions to serving as an influential member of several committees with USA Swimming. Malone, too, was an advocate for Title IX legislation and vocal about performance-enhancing drug use in the sport. Now, she has expressed her views on the Lia Thomas/transgender situation, and has deduced that more factors are at play than just a biological edge.

In an hourlong interview with Swimming World, Malone took a deep look at the Thomas saga and drew several parallels with issues the sport has tackled in the past. One of those parallels connected Thomas’ situation to the systematic-doping program of East Germany from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. While Malone noted that the impact of the testosterone naturally built up by Thomas is akin to the impact of steroids used by East German athletes, the psychological impact of Thomas’ presence in a woman’s sport is as influential.

“She has an amazing expectation of herself that most females do not have,” Malone said of Thomas. “You can compare it to the 1970s and the East German era. Our women are faced with the same issue. The women didn’t really believe they could beat the East Germans. Yes, they beat them in the (1976 Olympic 400 freestyle relay), but that was up to Jack Nelson and that group of women. (The East Germans) were not invincible. The amount of gain they could get in a week or two, it might take us six months. But our women really fought the idea that they could beat them. To them, they were superhuman and that was a real problem psychologically. And I think it’s a problem and major issue now because they don’t believe Lia can be beaten.”

Lia Thomas

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Another angle introduced by Malone is what transgender women reap from their years as competitors on men’s teams. Even if transgender women take hormone suppressants, Malone indicated that having several years of training with men to fall back on is advantageous, as they are aware of what the body is capable of, which serves as a psychological advantage.

Malone also relates the situation to the super-suit era of 2008 and 2009, when polyurethane swimwear led to a rash of worlds records and placed technology over pure skill. For a time, it seemed as if many of the records registered in speedboat suits, would never be beaten. Eventually, though, athletes found a way, having developed a belief they could be that fast without the aid of polyurethane.

Meanwhile, Malone recognizes that the effects of testosterone, even with suppressants, are not mitigated in a short period of time. Rather, mitigation of testosterone is a process, and there is little doubt that transgender women continue to receive a boost from the strength they gained from male puberty.

“When I heard about the one-year thing, I understood what they were trying to do,” Malone said of the NCAA guidelines. “But that is just not enough time (for medication). It takes time for it all to take effect. My strength is way down, but I’m 10 years into it. But that’s not the way it was after two or three years. It didn’t diminish that quickly. I haven’t lost any of my motor skills. And all my knowledge of what I can do and what my performance levels can be, they were not discouraged.

“Right as I was retiring, I felt the suit era was going to come to an end. The rules hadn’t changed yet, but you could see that it was coming. There are so many advantages we have gained from suits, not just in times, but from what we found was possible. You don’t lose your gain. You at least believe you can match your times and go beyond. For Lia, she is with the same coaches, in the same environment. That’s a real advantage. She learned how to race (against males). And she got to put a top on her suit, and we took those away from the boys. We know you are more efficient. You get flotation and compression.”

The possibility exists that Thomas, or another transgender woman, will pursue representation of the United States in international competition. For that scenario to unfold, the athlete will have to meet the new USA Swimming guidelines, which require a testosterone threshold of 5 nmols/L over 36 consecutive months. Malone is concerned about inclusion and fairness for National team selection.

“We have a lot of National Teams that can be affected, and that is important,” Malone said. “This is a moment in time for women, with two spots – six for relays – available. That’s big. I think USA Swimming has done, in the short term, a good job with its new rules.

“I saw this whole issue coming, but I didn’t see it this fast. We need to make sure we don’t exclude, but we also need fairness balanced with inclusion, which might vary at different levels and age of sport.”

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2 years ago

Unfortunately the trans activists refuse to deal with reality.