Trans athlete who competed in men's hurdle division wins women's national title
A transgender woman who previously competed as a man has become a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) track champion.
CeCe Telfer clinched the women's 400-metre hurdles national title at the 2019 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships for Franklin Pierce University on May 25. The senior completed the course with an incredible time of 57.53s, with the second place opponent getting a score of 59.21s.
However, her impressive victory has been surrounded by criticism from those concerned that transgender women competing in sports may have an unfair advantage - despite NCAA guidelines stating transgender women are allowed to compete as long as they suppress their testosterone levels for a full calendar year, something Telfer did.
Robert Johnson claimed the young runner's win was proof as to why women's sports need "protection". In his column for Let’sRun.com, he wrote: "The fact that Telfer can change her gender and immediately become a national champion is proof positive as to why women’s sports needs protection.
"Telfer ran slightly faster in the 400 hurdles competing as a man (57.34) than as a woman (57.53), even though the men’s hurdles are six inches taller than the women’s hurdles.
"Yet when Telfer ran 57.34 as a man, she didn’t even score at her conference meet — she was just 10th at the Northeast-10 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2016. Now she’s the national champion."
Australian running champ Tamsyn Manou also claimed Telfer's title was unfair, insisting it fell into a "concerning grey area".
Saying the female category in elite sports is "vulnerable" and not protected enough to ensure a fair and even competition, she stated: "I think that it's important that people understand it's not about gender identity. This is an issue that is surrounding what you were born as, biologically what your sex is. There is just way too much advantage with a male competing against a female."
However, Telfer has defended herself, arguing she is on hormone suppression medication and has no benefit.
"I have no benefit. I’m on hormone suppression, it doesn’t help," she said. "It’s another disadvantage. Cis women are producing more testosterone than the average trans female. So it’s crazy!"
She added: "I’m the crazy one, to be the weakest female, the weakest link in the chain, to be competing against the top ones. I should be fingered as the stupid one, for wanting to do that in the first place."
In addition, she pointed out that she came fifth in the 100m hurdles earlier in the day.
"I placed fifth," she said. "Which means four other ‘biological females’ — I mean, cisgender women — crossed the finish line before me."
Her coach Zach Emerson praised her performance, stating her performance was down to training and increased effort.
He said: "It was tough conditions out here with the wind and the heat over the last three days but, as she has over the last six months, CeCe proved herself to be tough enough to handle it.
"Today was a microcosm of her entire season; she was not going to let anything slow her down. I’ve never met anybody as strong as her mentally in my entire life."
The Franklin Pierce University student was raised as a boy called Craig and competed on the men’s team at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.
Her last competition as Craig took place in January 2018 and saw her finish eighth out of nine men in the 400 metres. She resigned from the team and went on to have gender reassignment surgery before joining the women’s team in October.
The NCAA officially disagrees about the advantage, with its Transgender Handbook clearly stating: "According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women's team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence."