I’m a Team USA World Masters Track Athlete, Mom and Coach Calling for the Protection of Women’s Sports


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I’m a mother, coach, and Team USA World Masters track athlete fighting for something bigger than another gold medal: I’m an advocate for the protection of women’s sport.

If male athletes continue to compete on female teams, it will be the end of women’s sports. This is no exaggeration; this is the reality, and it is happening right now.


At the 2018 World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, Spain, I participated in the 200 meter race against an athlete with a male body, whom I beat by only a few tenths of a second. The following year, the same athlete beat my teammate in the hurdles for a podium spot at the 2019 World Championship indoor competition in Poland. My teammate had trained harder than anyone I know.

Cynthia Monteleone
(Courtesy of Cynthia Monteleone)

It’s not just on the world stage that I’ve experienced the demoralizing tendency of male athletes to displace women from their own competitions; it was also on my home island of Maui, Hawaii.

A year and a half after my experience in Spain, my daughter lost to a biological male identifying as female in her very first track race in high school. I had watched with pride as my strong, determined daughter did all the right things – making personal and difficult sacrifices to train her body to be as fast and fit as possible for her first race.

Still, all of his hard work seemed to slip away with the male-bodied athlete, who had just moved from the boys’ volleyball team to the girls’ team the previous season. The athlete passed right by her to claim first place, leaving her to finish second.

How can you win as a woman when you’re lined up next to a male body whose strength, heart and lung capacity, and pace are all superior to yours, regardless of “treatment”?

It wasn’t just the fact that my daughter placed second to this individual in her first race, but we also began to witness all the other ways this injustice affects families like ours: impact on the mental health of girls who must race male athletes, the personal lessons of rewarded efforts and achieved goals, and future scholarships, awards and honours.

But how can you win as a woman when you’re lined up next to a male body whose strength, heart and lung capacity, and rhythm are all superior to yours, regardless of “treatment”?

Numerous studies have shown that men continue to hold great physical advantages over women, even when they suppress their testosterone. A man’s muscle advantage is minimally reduced when testosterone is suppressed, and men are still 12% faster than their female counterparts after two years of feminizing hormones.

We are not just hormones. What about the impact of our cycle on athletic performance? What about the impact of birth control or pregnancy? These are all valid barriers that men identifying as women do not have to overcome.

The most important factor is the psychological balance. Many of the girls I coach suffer from anxiety about having to compete against male athletes. We all know the powerful scientific connection of neurotransmitters between our mind and our body: when you think you can win, you have a better chance of doing so. It’s proven.

Yet those of us who dare to say that competing with men is unfair are told, “Oh, it’s not that bad. It doesn’t happen that often.” “Just keep your mouth shut and shut up.” That’s what I was told when I raised questions about the injustice of running alongside a male-bodied athlete at the World Masters.

From coast to coast, we see college administrators, coaches, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and many others in media and culture trying to downplay our stories and sweep us under the rug. But know this: there is a groundswell. From my own daughter raising her voice with young track stars Chelsea Mitchell, Selina Soule and Alanna Smith in Connecticut, to Lainey Armistead playing soccer in West Virginia, to University of Pennsylvania swimmers who are stressed by the presence of a man in their locker room (not to mention the women who compete, and often lose, against this swimmer with a man’s body).

Yes indeed, there is a chorus of voices bravely recounting missed opportunities, lost scholarships and titles, and the enormous challenge of competing in the sport you love on a playing field you know is uneven.

How does this affect how girls view the future?

My daughter is a junior in high school and plans to follow in my footsteps and go down a college-level path. But she is already worried about whether she will be able to compete and receive scholarships.

After all, we know that college athletic departments receive funding from the production of champions – so what’s their motivation to recruit biological women like her for their women’s teams when male athletes might bring a better chance of victory? and more money? We are already seeing this trend at the University of Pennsylvania.


It’s wrong for high school girls — or women of any age, for that matter — to worry about not being good enough just because they’re a woman. We are witnessing the nail in the coffin at the death of Title IX.

Female athletes deserve the chance to receive honours, awards and scholarships. We Homework raise our voices in the name of fairness and equal opportunity for all women, before the whole women’s sports category was erased.



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