Jack & Jill Went Up The Hill

There seems to be a fundamental difference between those that are very good at something and the masses of try-hards. Master coaches like Arch Jelley and Arthur Lydiard make coaching Olympic athletes so very simple. Do this and this and this, don’t do this and the result will work. There is none of the complicated coaching jargon that infests the world of sport’s science and administration. I gave up asking one Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Head Coach for advice. He would talk for fifteen minutes and I couldn’t understand a word he said. I changed to asking Duncan Laing instead. He spoke in sentences I understood. I guess it was our shared freezing works background.

But it is true, coaches like Jelley, Lydiard, Hurring, Laing and Schubert have or had a knack of cutting through forests of jargon and exposing the essential truth. “Keep it simple” is invaluable advice. Sometimes though, it is difficult. How do you explain something that’s going on in sport right now? How do you square a circle that includes the following facts?

First there is Hubbard. Competing AS A MALE Hubbard set New Zealand junior weightlifting records in 1998 in the newly established MALE 105+ kilogram division with a snatch of 135 kg, a clean & jerk of 170 kg and a total of 300 kg.  Those MALE records were later surpassed by MALE David Liti.

Subsequently HUBBARD transitioned to FEMALE and became Laurel Hubbard.

AS A FEMALE at the 2017 Australian International & Australian Open in Melbourne, Hubbard competed at the heaviest 90 kg+ category, winning the gold medal. AS A FEMALE Hubbard qualified for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but an elbow injury during the competition forced Hubbard to withdrawal from the event while leading the field. AS A FEMALE Hubbard won two gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.

And second there is the South African runner Caster Semenya. She was born FEMALE in Ga-Masehlong, a village in South Africa and grew up in the village of Fairlie, deep in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province. Semenya has three sisters and a brother. AS A FEMALE Semenya attended Nthema Secondary School and the University of North West as a sports science FEMALE student.

AS A FEMALE Semenya participated in the 2008 World Junior Championships in the 800 meters and did not qualify for the finals. She won gold at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games with a time of 2:04.23. AS A FEMALE Semenya won gold in the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships with a time of 1:55.45 and at the 2017 World Championships in her new personal best, 1:55.16. AS A FEMALE Semenya also won the silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in the 800 meters. AS A FEMALE Semenya was the winner of the gold medal in the 800 meter events at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics.

In 2019 the IAAF won a court case ordering Semenya not to compete unless she takes drugs to reduce her testosterone advantage.

It is off the subject but I struggle to understand why an Australian swimmer gets banned for taking some drug and a South African runner is banned unless she does take some drug. Drugs are drugs. No one should act as God deciding to refuse some drugs and order others. No drugs should mean, no drugs.

The facts seem pretty straight forward. On the one hand we have a good championship male weightlifter that has used trans-gender rules to compete as a female. And on the other hand we have a good female runner who has a high testosterone count and wants to continue running as a female.

And yet world sport’s administrators allow the guy to keep on competing as a female but ban the female for being female. How does that work? The guy gets to keep on competing as a female and the female gets banned from competing as a female.

Anybody who reads Swimwatch knows I have a dim view of many decisions made by sport’s administrators. From the, in my view, illegal withholding of the Marris Report to the decision to charge swimmers to attend a world championship in Japan while the CEO swans off on an all-expenses paid junket to Korea. The corruption is blatant. And those responsible are unashamed.

But when I consider the brazen stupidity of administrators who rule that it is fine for a male champion weightlifter to take a few drugs and compete as a female and a week later ban a good female runner from participating in her sport, my contempt knows no limits. Sports administrators have decided Hubbard can stay and Semenya has to go.

Truth, honesty, decency and fairness demand that Semenya should stay and Hubbard should go. But what do the likes of these sports administrator know about truth, honesty, decency and fairness? Like SNZ, not a lot it seems.

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