Several comments from Alaska State Board of Education Chair James Fields seem to undermine the board’s recent decision to ban biological males from competing in high school sports that are designated for females only.
Last week the education board voted 7-0 to adopt a new policy, explicitly stating that participation on teams created for females will be limited to “females who were assigned female at birth.”
It is now up to the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) to implement the now policy in its regulations, which will likely occur at the upcoming Oct. 8-10 meeting.
Just prior to the Aug. 31 State Board of Education vote, however, Fields suggested that ASAA might be able to allow biological males who have undergone puberty blockers, early on, to get a waiver to allow them to skirt the new policy and compete against girls.
Fields doubled down on this comment in a statement released on Sept. 3.
“When ASAA works their regulations on their end it should include a waiver process that would allow ASAA to rule on those that may have transitioned their gender with puberty blockers or other forms of testosterone blockers prior to puberty,” he said.
Nothing in the education board’s newly approved policy makes any mention of possible waivers, and Fields’ was the only board member to suggest the idea. Nevertheless, his comments could influence the way ASAA implements the new requirements.
Currently, the only waivers listed on the ASAA website deal with exceptions for playing games on Sundays, foreign student waivers and provisions to allow eighth graders to compete at the high school level.
By suggesting that ASAA might be able to create a way around the new policy, Fields’ comment appears to be aimed at placating those who claim puberty blockers and hormone therapy can negate the physical advantages biological males have over female athletes.
An expert report by Dr. Gregory A. Brown, an exercise science professor at the University of Nebraska, contradicts this idea. Brown points out that the physical advantages of males is established well before the onset of puberty.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
Dr. Brown’s points to a European study that examined the athletic performances of boys and girls of elementary school age. The study found that even at age six, boys have significant advantages in cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, speed, agility, and power tests. In the study, the boys outperformed girls at every age in measures of handgrip strength, long standing jump, 200-meter shuttle run, and oxygen consumption, which accounts for 30-40% of success in endurance sports.
Likewise, the idea that cross-sex hormones levels the playing field is also highly questionable. No amount of testosterone suppression in a male who has undergone natural puberty can eliminate significant advantages in arm or leg strength, running speed, muscle mass or bone structure and density.
According to Dr. Brown, on average, there is around a 5% loss of muscle mass and strength, but that cannot reverse the 40-50% difference that typically exists between men and women. And even after two full years of testosterone suppression, males still run 12% faster than women.
Given that the ASAA is responsible for implementing the education board’s new policy regarding transgender-identifying athletes, it will be important for the public to weigh in on their expectations, especially with regard to any possible waivers.
— Click here to contact the Alaska School Activities Association board prior to its Oct. 8-10 meeting.
— Click here to contact State Board of Education board members.
— Click here for information on how to participate in the Oct. 8-10 ASAA meeting.