Officials with a Toronto area swimming competition are blaming Swimming Canada regulations for a 50-year old biological male competing against girls as young as 13.
At the Richmond Hill Aquatic Centre’s fall classic last weekend, 50-year old Melody Wiseheart’s participation raised questions from the parents of the other swimmers.
As first reported by Rebel News, parents said it was “perverse” that Wiseheart, who was born male and lives as a woman, was competing against 13- and 14-year old girls.
Wiseheart, a professor at York University in the psychology department, did not respond to a request for comment from True North.
“We base (it) on Swimming Canada registrations,” a competition official told Rebel News’ David Menzies.
“For most competitions, a person can compete as the gender they declare, which I believe was changed in 2019,” Swimming Canada spokesperson Nathan White told True North.
The self-identification approach is quite problematic, one advocate for women in sports says.
“It’s disturbing. It’s a male person going into a girl’s race, which is absolutely unethical,” said Linda Blade, the former president of Athletics Alberta and author of Unsporting. “If any man can come along and check a box and say, ‘Oh no, I’m actually a girl today,’ that’s just wrong.”
As for the age discrepancy, White said it was an “open category,” meaning there was no age limit. The sections of the event for the oldest swimmers were 13 and older, and 15 and older.
Regarding a 50-year old’s participation, White said “it certainly seems like an anomaly.”
While most events were broken up by age, all were divided by gender. Wiseheart, 50, was the only competitor over 17 listed.
The swimming world has seen similar controversies. Swimmer Lia Thomas, formerly mid-500 ranked as a male, rose to top ranks after starting to identify and compete as a woman. Likewise, runners Soren Stark-Chessa and Aspen Hoffman saw post-transition meteoric rises.
Blade said sporting organizations need to take a stand.
“Sports organizations need to pony up, grow a spine, and say no, we compete in the sport on the basis of biological sex, which is still in the charter by the way.”
Blade added that while privacy can be a concern in sports like swimming based on shared locker rooms, contact sports operating with similar gender flexibility can put women at serious risk of injury by competing against biological males.
“It’s dangerous for little girls and women,” she said.
Sports Canada is the primary funding agency for most sports organizations nationwide, explained Blade. She said that when Sports Canada has been questioned on its position about self-gender identification in sports, it tends to leave it to each individual sport to self-regulate.
“Women’s sports need to be segregated from men, and that’s not hard,” Blade argued.
Walking down this same path will keep piling on more and more trouble, explained Blade. Continuing this way will destroy sports for women and girls, she believes.
“Stop waiting for somebody else to say that this is wrong. Everybody in the venue and in the local, provincial, and national sports board, all of us have to start getting stronger and say no to sex discrimination,” said Blade.