A transgender woman who competed as a man before her transition has become a National Collegiate Athletic Association track champion.
CeCe Telfer successfully clinched the women’s 400 metre hurdle national title at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships for Frankland Pierce University on May 25.
However, her impressive win has faced controversy with some people in the running community arguing transgender athletes competing in women’s sports may have an unfair advantage.
As reported by the Mail Online, Telfer’s coach Zach Emerson praised her performance, saying:
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.
Telfer was born and raised as a boy called Craig and competed on the men’s team at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, even though she personally identified as a woman. During 2016 and 2017, she wasn’t in the top 200 male athletes competing in the event.
Her last competition as Craig took place in January 2018, and saw her finish eighth out of nine men in the 400 metres.
Telfer resigned from the team and went on to have gender reassignment surgery before joining the women’s team in October.
According to NCAA guidelines, male athletes are allowed to compete as women provided they suppress their testosterone levels for a full calendar year, but until then they must compete in the mixed-sex teams in the men’s division.
Emerson says Telfer’s improved is down the increased effort she’s put in and her experience from the previous three seasons of competing.
He said, as reported by the Mail Online:
She’s been incredibly motivated this year and I think the transition one million percent had something to do with that. It’s like night and day as far as what she was willing to do as an athlete and how committed she was.
Telfer’s recent win made her Franklin Pierce University’s first gold medalist and simultaneously sparked yet more debate over whether transgender athletes are being handled fairly.
Robert Johnson weighed in on the debate in his column for Let’sRun.com, writing:
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.
Tamsyn Manou, an Australian running champion, has described Telfer’s win as unfair, calling the subject ‘a concerning grey area.’
She said women’s sport is currently vulnerable and not enough is being done to protect fair competition in the female division, explaining:
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.
The NCAA has since disagreed with the claims, referring to the organisation’s transgender handbook, which says:
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.