PHOENIX – A former University of Arizona swimming star said Wednesday anyone born male should not be able to compete in girls’ sports, no matter what the age.
Marshi Smith, the 2005 NCAA and Pac-10 Conference women’s backstroke champion, already was on record as opposing the NCAA policy of allowing those born male to compete against females. At an event in January, she read a letter from 45 current and former female athletes and coaches threatening action against the organization which regulate intercollegiate sports if they do not rescind the policy.
But on Wednesday, Smith said this goes beyond college and even high school level sports.
She said her own experience convinces her that boys as young as 4 have an inherent physical advantage.
Smith expressed her views at a press conference Wednesday to support a bid by state schools chief Tom Horne to defend a 2022 Arizona law that forbids transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports. More to the point, he is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of two transgender girls who want to compete.
One is an 11-year-old who attends an elementary school in the Kyrene School District and is set to attend Aprende Middle School in July where she would like to try out for girls’ soccer and other teams. Her lawyers say she has “lived her life as a girl’’ since she was 5. They also said she has not started puberty.
The other is a 15-year-old transgender girl who attends The Gregory School, a private school in Tucson. The lawsuit says she has been on puberty-blocking medication since age 11.
What their lawyers want is for U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer Zipps to declare that the 2022 law cannot be enforced against them because of their prepubescent status.
Horne contends all that is irrelevant, saying he has studies which show an inherent advantage for those born biological males at all ages.
Smith said she doesn’t need to see the studies. She said she has seen it for herself what with a son who is 4 and a daughter who is 7.
“I can tell as a mother the difference between my 4-year-old son as compared to my daughter at the same age,’’ Smith said.
Smith has been at the forefront of the fight with the NCAA which has been under fire since it allowed Lia Thomas, a former University of Pennsylvania swimmer, who became the first male-born athlete in 2022 to win an NCAA women’s title after transitioning to female. That occurred after three years on the men’s team where he was not among top contenders.
That, Smith said, “was really shattering to me and many of my fellow teammates.’’
The letter to the NCAA she and others signed seeks repeal of policies they said that “allow male athletes to take roster sports on women’s teams and/or compete in women’s events.’’ And the letter threatened legal action “if you do not protect female athletes from discrimination on the basis of sex.’’
Arizona lawmakers approved the 2022 law amid questions of both discrimination and whether a state statute is needed.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association which governs high school sports already had protocols to handle requests by transgender athletes to participate in sports on a case-by-case basis. Dr. Kristina Wilson, who was on the AIA’s medical advisory board, testified that out of 170,000 high school athletes there had been just 16 requests by transgender individuals to compete.
Horne, was unimpressed.
“Not only am I critical of the AIA, I’ve been critical of the Biden administration who wants to make it a case-by-case basis,’’ said Horne, who is a Republican.
Last month the U.S. Department of Education proposed a rule about how it will interpret Title IX. That’s the section of federal law that prohibits schools from denying equal opportunities in sports based on sex.
According to the agency, that would make illegal any categorical ban on students participating on sports teams “consistent with their gender identity just because of who they are.’’ It would, however, allow for instances where schools could limit their participation, though that would depend on things like grade and education level, with an understanding that such discrimination may be necessary at the high school and collegiate level in certain sports.
Horne said that doesn’t work. And some of it is political.
“The problem with making it case-by-case is you have people of a far-left persuasion in positions of education who will lean toward letting transsexuals defeat girls in sports,’’ he said.
“It’s a biological difference between males and females,’’ Horne said. “And we need a rule and not let people, based on their political convictions, violate that rule of nature.’’
Horne brushed aside the fact that the lawsuit involves only prepubescent transgender girls, insisting that this is just the first step by law firms that champion transgender rights.
“These big law firms are trying to change our whole system and our whole culture and we have to fight them at this stage,’’ he said.
Smith agreed that there needs to be a hard-and-fast ban against anyone born male participating in girls’ sports.
“Our daughters deserve fair competition,’’ she said.
“They deserve equal opportunities,’’ Smith said. “They deserve not only a chance to play but a chance to win.’’
Shawna Glazier shared her own experience on why competition from transgender females is unfair.
“In a cycling road race, I was forced to compete against someone who was born a male and identified as a female,’’ she said, saying his physical advantages were obvious as he outperformed all the women.
“It is degrading to be forced to race with them,’’ Glazier said.
No date has been set for the hearing in court.