Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Classical Argument Construction - abolish gender based sports at highest competitive levels

This is a blog post for my Critical Thinking class I am taking this semester.  The assignment was to construct an argument using either Classical, Rogerian, or Toulmin types of arguments.  I chose classical.


Competitive (e.g. for acclaim or money) gender-based sports should be abolished.  In recent years, the lines between gender have blurred, at least to the public's eyes.  Most of the outrage can be seen when a person who is perceived to be a woman, might actually be more aligned genetically to be a man due to higher levels of testosterone.

Statement of Background

One catalyst event, which brought wide-spread attention to this issue was the 2016 Olympics 800m women's' event.  The gold medal winner was Caster Semenya.  Attention followed her because of the events which lead up to the 2016 Olympics.  In 2009, at the world track and field championships, she won the event by an impressive margin (2 seconds) after which she was accused, by another runner, of being a man.   After the accusation, she "was barred from competition and subjected to sex tests. She returned months later" after "the general secretary of the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body, said, 'She is a woman, but maybe not 100 percent'" (Longman).

The Semenya issue drove clarity in guidelines for competition events for women.  In 2011, the International Association of Athletics Federations, working with International Olympic Committee Medical Commission established rules for the amount of testosterone a person recognized as a woman by law, can have in her body (“IAAF to Introduce Eligibility Rules for Females with Hyperandrogenism| News”).  Subsequently, some female athletes are subjected to tests to verify if they are qualified to compete as a women.


As the lines blur more and more, and as society begins to deal with similar issues at all levels of competition in sports, perhaps it is time to rethink how competitive categories are established.  As a first step, gender based sports, at the highest competitive levels (i.e. professional, paid, Olympic) should be abolished and new categories established.

One proposal is to follow in the footsteps of Paralympics sports, to recategorize competitive groups "based on functional ability rather than medical conditions" such as the amount of testosterone in the body (Kerr).  This shifts the competitive rules away from lightening rod topics of sex and gender (i.e. medical based), towards a more objectively based criteria.


Whereas most sports are based on a selective classification (i.e. gender), the Paralympics have moved towards a functional based classification system, thus avoiding problems such as the one faced by Semenya and other hyper androgenous female athletes.  In a functional based system, "the main factors that determine class are … how much the impairment of a person impacts upon sports performance" as well as movements of the body (Tweedy, Kerr).

In the case of running and sprinting, the categorization would move from gender based to muscle mass classification.  The highest category for runners could have a range, from a minimum amount of muscle mass and fast twitch fibers to an unlimited amount.  The next category's upper limit of the range would be just below the minimum range of the top category to some lower limit (Kerr).


However, the norms of society are quite strong, and many people are quite used to gender based sports, mostly for the aspects of fairness in play.  This position is not stating that gender based sports at all levels be abolished, but only at the highest levels.  As more spectators and society view the proposed functional based categories, they will adapt and become comfortable with an alternative way to compete.  Some lower levels of competition (e.g. college, high school) may begin adopting this method, especially in open and co-ed leagues.  Change takes time and the very best can lead the way into a more objective based competition system.

Works Cited

“IAAF to Introduce Eligibility Rules for Females with Hyperandrogenism| News.” www.worldathletics.org, 12 Apr. 2011, www.worldathletics.org/news/iaaf-news/iaaf-to-introduce-eligibility-rules-for-femal-1. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

Kerr, Roslyn. “Why It Might Be Time to Eradicate Sex Segregation in Sports.” The Conversation, 14 Jan. 2018, theconversation.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-eradicate-sex-segregation-in-sports-89305.

LONGMAN, JERÉ. "Understanding the Controversy Over Caster Semenya. "ProQuest, Aug 18, 2016, https://www.proquest.com/blogs-podcasts-websites/understanding-controversy-over-caster-semenya/docview/1812349822/se-2?accountid=8289.

Tweedy, S. M., and Y. C. Vanlandewijck. "International Paralympic Committee Position Stand-Background and Scientific Principles of Classification in Paralympic Sport." British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 45, no. 4, 2011, pp. 259. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/international-paralympic-committee-position-stand/docview/1779237454/se-2?accountid=8289, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2009.065060.

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