I have been writing articles for Breaking Muscle for nearly three years and have enjoyed writing without having to give complex explanations of various issues to the readers. I have always assumed a certain level of knowledge among you all.

 

Well, with the recent news of Olympian Bruce Jenner coming out as a transgender, I find that the world out there is not always so well versed in sport issues as I might have presumed.

 

Caitlyn with son Brody Jenner at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 2012.

 

Note: I will not go into the details of the Jenner case as it is all over the web. Neither will I let this degenerate into a debate on its merits. Others are better versed, and in any case it is irrelevant to my point here.

 

Needless to say, such a high-profile case attracts a lot of comment from all sides of the issue. I am not here to discuss those. But I will point out how careless some non-sport people can be when trying to make policy for those inside it.

 

The #Givebackthegold Campaign

It seems that one Jennifer Bradford of Texas started a campaign to request that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ask for the return of the gold medal Bruce Jenner won in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Here is what she wrote:

 

Dear International Olympic Committee,

 

It has recently come to light that gold medalist Bruce Jenner is in fact transgender, and therefore, identifies as a woman. We congratulate Ms. Jenner on these new developments and wish her the best. However, this creates somewhat of a problem as Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men's sports and vice versa. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we must ask whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner should retain her Olympic records in light of this, as we must now either claim that Bruce Jenner and Caitlyn Jenner are two entirely different people (which we know is not true), or that Bruce Jenner was, in fact, a woman participating in a men's event. It is only fair to all involved that women receive their credit as champions of the decathlon and that the men racing Ms. Jenner are not expected to compete with a superior, streamlined being such as herself.

 

We urge Ms. Jenner to support the transgender community by giving up the medals earned by competing against the wrong gender.

 

Thank you, and congratulations to Ms. Jenner for her courage!

 

#givebackthegold.

 

The associated Twitter campaign has gotten lots of response, although most are against the request to return the medal. Still, there are enough supporters that you have to wonder how knowledgeable the public is. When I saw this, I did not know whether to laugh or blow my top.

 

Let’s Examine Ms. Bradford’s Logic

First, like most international federations, the IOC does not usually respond to requests that don’t come via one of their national affiliates. They actually have on this one, presumably to nip it in the bud.

 

Second, Bradford seems to think Jenner still has some records to take away. These have long since fallen to subsequent athletes, as is the way with sport.

 

Third, she seems to think women also compete in the decathlon. She really should have checked that one out first, as it is easy to see they don’t. They do have something similar, the seven-event heptathlon, which is closed to men.

 

Jenner greets President Gerald Ford and Liberian President William Tolbert at the White House in 1976.

 

Most grievous of all, Bradford thinks women have some sort of advantage over men in this multi-sport competition. She credits this imaginary leg-up to Jenner being a “superior, streamlined being.” Well, he may have had some sort of advantage over his opponents, but it certainly wasn’t having a woman’s body.

 

"She wants Jenner’s medal to be returned since it was supposedly won by a cheating member of the wrong sex, real or imagined. Instead, she should be asking the IOC to award Jenner a second medal for being so good as to beat males at their own event."

And even if this supposed streamlined body did exist, would it be an advantage in the first place? Let’s look at the events themselves. They are contested in the following order:

 

  1. 100-meter sprint
  2. Long jump
  3. Shot put
  4. High jump
  5. 400-meter run
  6. 110-meter hurdles
  7. Discus throw
  8. Pole vault
  9. Javelin throw
  10. 1,500-meter run

 

In most all of these events, explosive power would be more telling to victory than a wind-slippery body. This is true even in the running events, save perhaps the 1,500. Even there, cardiovascular strength would rule more than streamlining.

 

Most importantly, the men’s records in each individual event have always exceeded the women’s records, and they would even if you compared the similar events contested in decathlons versus heptathlons. So, what advantage did Jenner have exactly?

 

Supporting Statistics

Just to add another layer to this discussion, I will give some statistics. Director of Cross-country and Track and Field at Kansas State University Cliff Rovelto studied the anthropometry of decathletes and heptathletes. While variations can be great at lower levels, elite practitioners tend to an ideal size.

 

He found the averages for both sexes are:

 

  • Average height: Decathletes = 6’3.5”, Heptathletes = 5’9.25”
  • Average weight: Decathletes = 192lbs, Heptathletes = 141lbs

 

These are for the best athletes in the world. Both sexes are taller than the human mean, and also slightly heavier than the rest of in-shape humanity. Again, where is the female advantage? Jenner himself as a woman said he was still a man in 1976. So, what advantage did his long-developing female gender identity give him?

 

"Most importantly, the men’s records in each individual event have always exceeded the women’s records, and they would even if you compared the similar events contested in decathlons versus heptathlons."

Finally, Bradford missed her own point completely. She wants Jenner’s medal to be returned since it was supposedly won by a cheating member of the wrong sex, real or imagined. Instead, she should be asking the IOC to award Jenner a second medal for being so good as to beat males at their own event. Maybe even a third medal for winning Bradford’s imaginary women’s decathlon event.

 

If anything, Jenner should receive an additional medal for beating males at their own event.

 

Just One More Thing

While Jenner has been given a lot of support and kudos for this decision, I personally find the most interesting move in this saga to be the adoption of the name “Caitlyn.” There must be another Kardashian storyline in there somewhere. Why didn’t he spell it with a “K”?

 

Ah, let’s all get back to the gym. It is hard enough to win our own sex’s events, never mind any other one.

 

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Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo 2 by Official White House photo by Ricardo Thomas, via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 3 by By Duncan Rawlinson/@thelastminute/Duncan.co, via Wikimedia Commons.

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