Petition Urges International Olympic Committee to Revoke Caitlyn Jenner's Olympic Title
A petition posted to change.org is asking the International Olympic Committee to take back the gold medal Caitlyn Jenner won in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
"We congratulate Ms. Jenner on these new developments and wish her the best," the petition states. "However, this creates somewhat of a problem as Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men's sports and vice versa."
The IOC has long struggled with how to differentiate men and women, based off the assumption that the two genders should not compete against one another in contests of athletic ability. For years, all female Olympians were subjected to the humiliating process of mandatory gender verification. That practice was stopped en masse in the 1990s, though the IOC still retains the right to seek gender verification for specific athletes.
While the vast majority of athletes fall easily into "male" and "female" categories, some do not. There have been several notable instances, among them the Polish track and field star Stanisława Walasiewicz (known in the U.S. as Stella Walsh) who won medals in women's events at the 1932 and 1936 Olympic Games but was determined to be intersex after her death during an armed robbery in Ohio in 1980. There is also the Spanish hurdler Maria Jose Martinez-Patiño, who failed a gender test in 1985 and was ruled ineligible to compete as a woman. While it's true that Martinez-Patiño has an X and a Y chromosome, which would normally make her biologically male, she also has androgen insensitivity syndrome, which means her body does not respond properly to testosterone, causing her body to develop as a female.
Then, in 2012, the IOC made a landmark decision which allows transgender athletes to compete amongst their chosen peers, with some conditions. Both FTM and MTF trans athletes must meet three main requirements: the athlete must have had gender reassignment surgery, the athlete must have legal recognition of his or her assigned gender in his or her home country, and the athlete must have completed at least two years of hormone therapy. This third requirement is mostly for MTF athletes, as two years of hormone therapy are required to erase the natural androgen-driven physical advantage of testosterone.
In the case of Caitlyn Jenner, the point is moot. While Jenner has said she has always known she was a woman, at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, she was not taking hormone therapy. (Furthermore, had she been taking hormones to suppress her natural testosterone, she'd have been at a distinct disadvantage against her male competitors.)
Related: Wheaties Had a Strange Response to Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair Cover
However, the petition's writer, Jennifer Bradford, does not seem to be interested in this rather important technicality.
Apparently unaware that the women's decathlon is not an Olympic sport, Bradford writes, "It is only fair to all involved that women receive their credit as champions of the Decathalon [sic] and that the men racing Ms. Jenner are not expected to compete with a superior, streamlined being such as herself."
While Jenner came out as trans decades after retiring from Olympic competition, there is a case of a trans woman successfully competing with other women. In a 1977 court decision, the New York Supreme Court ruled that Richards, a trans woman tennis player who'd received a sexual reassignment surgery in 1975, should be permitted to compete in the US Open. Richards made it to the final round in doubles competition at the 1977 US Open.
Related: Here's the First Promo for Caitlyn Jenner's E! Show I Am Cait
The change.org petition has already received more than 2,600 signatures of its 5,000-signature goal. But the IOC made its stance clear in a statement to Yahoo, "Bruce Jenner won his gold medal in 1976 Olympic Games and there is no issue for the IOC." However, it appears its goal was more to start a conversation... one that was already started decades ago by the international athletic community.