Sporting Integrity – Scotsman Article – 29 June 2021


With the Olympics coming round again I’ve been minding past moments. In particular, the 100 metres contest in 1988 that pitted the USAs Carl Lewis against Canada’s Ben Johnson. I suppose Allan Wells success at earlier games had sparked interest but, in any event, it’s one of the highlights for me.

I confess to rooting for Johnson who seemed that wee bit edgier than the much smoother Lewis. The American appearing a bit like someone your mother wanted you to pal around with even if you didn’t. Though it seems he wasn’t popular amongst his own fellow athletes as it turned out, so maybe my instinct was right.

But when Johnson rocketed away from the blocks and powered home I was delighted. A few days later though when it became clear he’d failed a doping test, I felt cheated. It was the same with Lance Armstrong the cyclist who’s return from testicular cancer was extraordinary and inspiring. When he finally confessed to cheating as it simply is, I again felt betrayed. It’s what been termed sporting integrity that entered the lexicon here through football and when Rangers were required to face the punishment that was meant to apply to all.

It applies in all sports and will once again in Tokyo. I’ve no doubt testing for doping will be rigorous and rightly so. But what about transgender athletes. Where’s the sporting integrity when someone who’s clearly got a male physiology is competing with women. That applies in every sport where strength through muscle structure or other attributes applies and certainly in weightlifting where it’s pivotal.

Yet a transgender athlete has been selected by New Zealand resulting in the exclusion of women competitors, including a much-vaunted Maori lady. Where’s the sporting integrity there. An advantage is being obtained maybe not through enhancement by substances but certainly through something basic which other competitors are denied.

Now I don’t know if this person will win or whether there’ll be others. But that males can compete as females seems to me to be wrong. If they win, I’ll feel cheated. It’s about sporting integrity.