Leading Sports Scientist Ross Tucker Sheds Light on Transgender Participation Debate

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Leading Sports Scientist Ross Tucker Sheds Light on Transgender Participation Debate

The issue of transgender participation in women’s sports has been a major topic in swimming, most notably Lia Thomas – a three-year men’s team member at the school – representing the University of Pennsylvania and winning an NCAA title in March. The debate, however, goes beyond swimming, and the issue of fairness for biological women is at the heart of the discussion.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker, an expert on the topic, was recently interviewed by Medscape and provided insights on transgender participation, including the inherent advantages maintained by trans women after transitioning. Here are some of the comments made by Tucker, and here is the complete interview conducted by Medscape.

On Women’s Sports Having Its Own Separate Category

Women’s sports exist because we recognize that male physiology has biological differences that create performance advantages. Women’s sports exist to ensure that male advantages are excluded. If you allow male advantage in, you’re allowing something to cross into a category that specifically tries to exclude it. That makes the advantage possessed by trans women conceptually and substantively different from an advantage that’s possessed by Michael Phelps because his advantage doesn’t cross a category boundary line.

If someone wants to allow natural advantages to be celebrated in sports, they’re arguing against the existence of any categories, because every single category in sports is trying to filter out certain advantages.

Weight categories in boxing exist to get rid of the advantage of being stronger, taller, with greater reach. Paralympic categories filter out the natural advantage that someone has if, for example, they are only mildly affected by cerebral palsy compared with more severely affected.

If someone wants to allow natural advantages, they’re making an argument for all advantages to be eliminated from regulation, and we would end up with sports dominated by males between the ages of 20 and 28.

Shouldn’t Transgender Women Unequivocally Dominate?

That (commentary) misunderstands how you assess advantage. For a trans woman to win, she still has to be good enough at the base level without the advantage, in order to parlay that advantage into winning the women’s events. If I was in the Tour de France and you gave me a bicycle with a 100-watt motor, I wouldn’t win the Tour de France. I’d do better than I would have done without it, but I wouldn’t win. Does my failure to win prove that motors don’t give an advantage? Of course not. My failure says more about my base level of performance than it does about the motor.

In terms of trans athletes, the retention of biological attributes creates the retention of performance advantages, which means that the person’s ranking relative to their peers’ will go up when they compare themselves to women rather than men. Someone who’s ranked 500 might improve to the 250s, but you still won’t see them on a podium. It’s the change in performance that matters, not the final outcome.

On the Emotional Nature of the Debate

There are a few things in play. There are nuances around the idea of advantage that people from outside sports don’t always appreciate. But then the second thing comes into play and that’s the fact that this is an emotive issue. If you come to this debate wanting trans inclusion, then you reject the idea that it’s unfair. You will dismiss everything I’ve just said.

There’s a third thing. When people invoke the Phelps wingspan argument, they haven’t thought through the implications. If you could sit them down and say, “Okay. If you want to get rid of regulating natural advantages, then we would get rid of male and female categories,” what do you think would happen then?

They may still support inclusion because that’s their worldview, but at least they’re honest now and understand the implications. But most people don’t go through that process.

To read more of Tucker’s comments, visit the full Medscape interview.

 

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S L
1 month ago

More anti-trans rhetoric from this publication. I can take a photo of the horizon and declare the earth is flat, but it is not. You can bring up all the arguments you want about trans women will eventually dominate women’s sports, but the facts remain in the last 78 cumulative years of competition at the highest levels in the Olympics, NCAA Division 1, and the US Open tennis, there is only been one win in one race despite roughly 3 million women competing. Yes, men are stronger, faster, etc.. The fundamental flaw here with antitrans people is they still want to equate men to trans women. They are not the same. It boils down to their desire to push transphobic rhetoric.

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S H
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

But genetically, at their core, trans women and men are the same. One might try to suppress some advantages or change their appearance, but it doesn’t fundamentally change them from being a man into a woman. Their inherent physical advantages after having gone through puberty still exist.

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Tilden Matthews
1 month ago
Reply to  S H

This whole debate is a bit flawed because people seem to insist on identifying only one factor as the relevant decision making point. In reality there’s many factors to think about. Is it true that lia has a Y chromosome? Yes. Is it true that that gives her an innate biological advantage over competitors who don’t have a Y chromosome? Yes. Is it true that her hormonal treatments mitigate that biological advantage to some degree? Yes. Does anyone know how much those treatments mitigate her biological advantage? No. And anyone who pretends they do, no matter how much of an expert they are, is lying.

Personally I’m on team “in the face of this uncertainty, lia should have to compete as a male or alternatively in a transgender category.” But regardless, any post that doesn’t understand that the debate is whether or not the Hormonal therapy is sufficient to mitigate the biological advantage of a y chromosome misses the point.

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Scott Face
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

Ridiculous and ignorant. Man have an advantage and if you can’t see that you are delusional.

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Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott Face

No such thing as a man turned into a woman. You can butcher but you can’t mutate. I eat of Alpo, now I want to enter Westminster DOG SHOW. Arf arf you don’t like me because I am a. Dog

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jvj
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

“Only one win” at the highest level is irrelevant. Girls losing to a trans athletes at any level are being cheated out of fair competition. The girl trying to win a high school conference championship deserves the same fairness as the girls at the higjest levels.

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AquaAnne
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

I generally do not read what follows an opening like “More anti-trans rhetoric from this publication. ” from any of the several sides of this issue, but I did decide to attempt to understand through your poor grammar and spelling what your slam-bam comment might contribute. . . only to find you presuming to boil much down to “The fundamental flaw” (from your perspective) and presume all people who are hoping to find a solution for the sake of women’s sports so all can be included fairly “still want to equate men to trans women.”
To your “they are not the same” simplicity . . . bravo. But, this also indicates you to be capable of recognizing biological women and trans women are not the same. Why else is the distinction “trans women” socially acceptable?
I suspect you are not an athlete who has trained at a high level for decades. Your take on this is noted, but not enlightening.

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Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

Tell us you didn’t read what he said without using those words.
It is not anti-trans to say they have advantages. It is fact.
Activists ruin EVERyTHING. Stop it.

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Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

More anti-science rhetoric from the mentally ill.
I equate trans women to men, because I will not participate in your infantile delusion, nor will I be belittled for being rational.
You are not a woman.

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Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  S L

I’ll bring up a rebuttal in your vein —- You can snap a photo of a trans person and instantly declare them a woman, but they are not. See how REALITY works?
But 100 years from now, when his BONES turn up, of course they’ll know he was a man.

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Bill
1 month ago

You missed the point. Swimming is not about physical size it’s about man vs women. Your argument is nonsense. Women sports is female sports not some man that says I Am. A Woman.

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Seth Huston
1 month ago

There doesn’t appear to be much support for calling people or publications anti trans just because they have different view. Just like being an advocate for trans women athletes to compete with biological women doesn’t make someone anti female.

Sports are built on rules to govern fair play. Separating males and females, like separating weight classes in boxing, wrestling, power lifting to name a few, or disabilities in para sports; levels playing fields and creates categories for fair competition. 

Denying the inherent physiological advantages of assigned male birth in DNA and puberty and then saying those advantages can be mitigated in a short period of time doesn’t sell. Advocates for trans women, why not trans men, need to bring some real proof to the debate or instead advocate for Open competition for all and quit invading biological women their right for fair opportunities in sport.

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Sushi
1 month ago

The debates taking currently place are pointless. Trans women should immediately be allowed to compete in women’s sports. If trans women win all the championships that obviously this is a mistake. If trans women do not win all the championships then this was a good idea. Period.

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AquaAnne
1 month ago
Reply to  Sushi

Oh my. You’ve discovered the millions of human beings around the world discussing this issue are pointless? I cannot comprehend how you expect to learn anything with True or False (absolutely no C. answers A and B or D. all of the above) guiding your existence. But, then I don’t suspect you care to learn or adapt to human condition and evolution.

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Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Sushi

Your false binary shows you simply don’t know how to think.
It’s already OBVIOUSLY A BAD IDEA.
Solved your dilemma.

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Kelly Nelson
1 month ago

So this “expert” completely ignores the physical changes that take place in a trans woman who has been on HRT for years…
I dismiss him with zero emotion, because his “opinion” is not based on readily available facts.

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Power 5 swimmer
1 month ago
Reply to  Kelly Nelson

You’re completely ignoring the physical differences between a male and female during development. On my team there are 3 people 6’6” or taller, one of which being 220 6’7. Do you really believe that someone of this composition would not have an immense physical advantage over their female counterparts? Im not a huge guy, but if I add time at the same proportion that Lia Thomas did in my events, I become an NCAA champion and American record holder in my events because of the physical differences I posses in my advantage over women.

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Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Kelly Nelson

You just joined the anti-science brigade.
IT is not an ‘opinion’. It is measurable, objective ADVANTAGE.
BUT, anyone on HRT for years still hasn”t the first idea what being a woman is like.
HEre’s a fact: Trans women are not women.

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