Australian World Masters Athletics Champion speaks out

Australian Masters gold medallist and athletics champion, Karen Long, has penned a moving letter as to why women’s sports should be for females only. From a lengthy and successful career of competition, Long speaks from experience and with authority on the matter.

Curiously, the Australian Institute of Sport and Athletics Australia are yet to pay attention to  such valuable insights. When they seek consultation they tend to lean toward trans rights groups instead of athletes such as Karen Long and weightlifter Deborah Lovely Acason, both females who have been directly impacted by males in their sport.

Karen began participating in athletics when she was five-years-old, competing up to the age of 17. Sprinting, shot put and long jump were her favoured events. During her next two decades she preferred longer distances between five and eight kilometres.

In 2013 Karen returned to sprinting. Her results reflected her passion and talent.

Karen won 14 Gold medals at the Australian Masters Athletics Championships as well as 15 other medals including four gold, six silver and two bronze medals in relays.

At the Oceania Masters Championships in Mackay, 2019 Karen won gold in all four sprints, plus shot put and both relays.

In 2020 Karen was world ranked number one in the W45 100m and 200m and 2nd in the 400m.

Her long list of achievements continued in Australia and abroad, including holding individual state records in South Australia.

Regarding this year’s World Masters Championships Karen considered carefully whether or not to compete. While travelling around Australia, Long continued to train and was surprised to see a competitor who had signed up for the Indoor World Championships in Poland for March 2023 with incredible times recorded for the events she would be competing in.

A quick google search revealed that she was in fact a ‘he’. His current time in the 200m is 25.71s, my best is 25.69s. I knew that if I was beaten by a ‘man’ at the World Championships, I would not accept the silver medal. It is not a fair contest on any level. I would have been angry and this individual doesn't deserve my wrath as he is just following the rules. It's the rules that require addressing. As the saying goes, be hard on the principle, not the person.

Karen said she thought about entering but decided not to. It was her understanding that the male athlete was on hormones but had not undergone any surgery. Karen’s father is a retired doctor, who helped her pen a letter to the peak bodies. She said World Athletics wrote back basically saying “it is what it is and they aren’t going to change it”.

Their response was extremely disappointing at the time. However, the tables turned somewhat a few months later when world Athletics announced males who had gone through puberty would not be permitted to compete at elite levels.

Karen’s email to Binary explained further her objections to males participating at any level in female divisions. It is important to hear this female athlete’s voice in relation to competing against male bodies. Needless to say, lowering testosterone is simply not adequate.

To think that the only difference between men and women is the testosterone level is crazy. Men have more muscle mass and to handle the greater forces they can produce with more muscle mass, they also have stronger tendons, ligaments and more robust bones and joints. Men have larger hearts and lungs, faster metabolism, more red blood cells and therefore more oxygen, unlikely to be low in iron as they do not have a menstrual cycle, no fluctuating hormones, no perimenopause and no menopause to name just a few differences. These differences between men and women start at conception and can’t be changed by simply ‘taking hormones’.

Masters athletes have a few unique issues regarding the transgender women in that often the men who transition to women that compete in the masters, transition in their mid 40s so they have had four and a half decades of training and competing as a man and all the benefits that this brings before transitioning. Also, as men age, their hearts get larger, whereas women’s hearts shrink and thirdly, in the W45 and W50 age groups, women are going through perimenopause and menopause, which these trans women do not have to contend with. 

I have nothing against these individuals personally. I do not agree with allowing trans women to compete with women simply because they identify as a woman. In sport, this alone should not allow them the equal opportunity to participate in the women’s category because they are not women by simply identifying as one. In contact sports, such as Australian rules football, women will get hurt by trans women, which is already happening and is ending the sporting career of women by way of injuries.

If inclusion is the intended goal, a fairer way to include trans women in the competition would be in their own category or with the men in an open category, however, the trans men will ‘get lost’ in men’s category as they will be unable to match the speed, strength, power and endurance of men so the alternative would be four different categories: men, women, trans men and trans women.

By allowing trans women to compete with women in sport, will erase 50% of the world's population from sport for the sake of individuals who would constitute less than 1% of the world’s population.

If fairness is the intended goal, then the unfairness is self-evident as there is yet to be a woman who has transitioned to a man who has gone on to dominate an athletic event in the men’s category, unlike the vice versa.

The ONLY fair, safe and dignified solution is to create new categories for trans identified people or they simply compete according to their biological reality. Women and girls should not have to entertain males in their divisions for the sake of men’s feelings.