- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2020

More than 300 female athletes on Wednesday urged the NCAA to reject calls to boycott Idaho over its ban on biological men competing in women’s sports.

The letter organized by Save Women’s Sports came in response to pressure from 60 progressive organizations, including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the National Center for Transgender Equality, to move NCAA championship events out of Idaho over a law seen as discriminatory to transgender athletes.

The female athletes who signed the letter, though, say the pressure to open women’s sports to biological men who identify as women amounts to little more than bullying.

“Such … tactics are antithetical to the NCAA values of respect, fairness, and civility, and would send a chilling message to women across the U.S. about the NCAA’s commitment to the integrity of women’s sports,” said the Save Women’s Sports letter.

The NCAA Board of Governors plans to take up the issue at its Aug. 4 meeting, which will be held remotely via Zoom.

“The NCAA’s mandate is fair competition,” the letter said. “We urge you to reject all calls to boycott and bully Idaho for preserving fair competition for women and girls across Idaho.”

Signers included Donna de Varona, a double Olympic gold medalist in swimming, who founded the Women’s Sports Foundation with tennis legend Billie Jean King. The Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative opposes the Idaho law.

“I agree with the letter,” Ms. de Varona said in a statement. “Those that want to compete as transgender male-to-female athletes should be accommodated in a more creative, open, or separate category.”

Also signing were cyclist Jennifer Wagner-Assali, who spoke out after placing third in the 2018 UCI Masters Track World Championship behind Rachel McKinnon, a transgender athlete who won the race; and track athlete Cynthia Monteleone, who filed a complaint in February against Hawaii’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in high school girls’ sports.

Idaho became a boycott target after the passage in March of HB 500, known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, a former Division I basketball player and coach.

“You don’t need to be especially political or religious to believe that women’s sports should only be for adult biological females,” said Beth Stelzer, founder of Save Women’s Sports and a medaling powerlifter. “Common sense and science tell us that men and women are different. Because of those differences, girls and women deserve the opportunity to compete, bond, train, suffer and enjoy victory without the presence of male bodies in their competitions or locker rooms.”

The NCAA said in a June 11 statement that HB 500 was “harmful to transgender student-athletes and conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals.”

NCAA championships are open to everyone, and the Association is committed to assuring that its events are safe and healthy for all who attend. It is our clear expectation that all NCAA student-athletes will be welcomed, treated with respect, and have nondiscriminatory participation wherever they compete,” the organization said.

In 2016, the NCAA pulled championship games out of North Carolina after the passage of HB 2, the so-called transgender “bathroom bill,” then lifted the ban six months later when the law was repealed.

The 2021 NCAA men’s basketball championship is scheduled to be held in Idaho.

The NCAA’s 2011 policy permits transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports after completing one year of testosterone-suppression treatment, but Save Women’s Sports argued that men have inherent physiological advantages such as larger muscle mass that lower testosterone cannot undo.

For example, the letter said that Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix holds the most World Athletics Championship medals in history, but in 2018 alone, 275 high school boys recorded faster times than hers in the 400-meter race on 738 occasions.

“Even the world’s best female Olympic athletes would lose to literally thousands of male athletes — including those who would be considered second tier in the men’s category — on any given day,” the letter said.

Save Women’s Sports said the letter was signed by “more than 40 professional athletes, several Olympians, and numerous current and former NCAA female athletes.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in May against the Idaho law on behalf of a transgender athlete, while the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom has sued on behalf of Connecticut high school female track athletes challenging the state policy allowing transgender athletes to compete against them.

“We athletes have diverse views on many topics, but we stand united in our desire to preserve a level playing field for female athletes,” said Idaho collegiate runner Mary Kate Marshall, who signed the letter. “Protecting the integrity of women’s sports is pro-woman and pro-fairness.”

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