Sporting achievement is now secondary to more subjective considerations
The ‘post-truth’ era has come for the principle of open competition. More than 40 camels have been banned from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia after their owners were discovered to have used Botox, fillers and even facelifts to enhance their features. And if medical technology is complicating even the question of what constitutes a natural camel physiognomy, it’s creating worse ripples still in the field of elite sport.
At the University of Pennsylvania Lia Thomas, a college swimmer who competed for three seasons as male is causing uproar for since identifying as a woman and joining the women’s team.
Since making the switch, Thomas has smashed a series of all-time records for the UPenn team, prompting a teammate to speak out. This teammate, who insisted on anonymity for fear of repercussions, asserts that everyone feels obliged to pretend that the presence of a male on their swim team is fine: “When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,” she said.
In private, though, she reports that the whole team has complained to their coach. But he doesn’t care: “Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning.”
Winning, then, has induced a college swim coach to disregard the many decades of research that show males perform on average 8.9% better across all swim styles, a gap that hasn’t narrowed since 1983. And he’s been able to do so because Lia Thomas’ inner sense of femaleness is deemed to take precedence over all the physiological advantages conferred by having undergone male puberty.
But it’s not just in college sport that measurable competitive standards have now been deemed secondary to more subjective considerations. Yesterday, Simone Biles was revealed as Time magazine’s Athlete Of The Year. An exceptional gymnast, Biles withdrew from her last four performances at the Tokyo Olympics, citing mental health issues — despite being the favourite to win multiple gold medals. And it’s for this act not of sporting performance but sporting non-performance that she’s now lionised on the cover of Time magazine.
I make no judgement on Biles’ decision; withdrawing may well have been wise. But it’s been five years since Time reported ‘post-truth’ to be the OED’s ‘Word of the Year’. And it’s startling to see the same progressives that lament the overtaking of objective fact by emotive narratives simultaneously celebrate, in Biles, the primacy of emotive narrative over objective fact.
Biles, Time reports breathlessly, ‘made clear the importance of prioritising oneself and refusing to succumb to external expectations’. Who knows how the camels feel; but I dare say adherents of Q, as well as those males who assert their right to compete against females because of how they feel on the inside, would agree wholeheartedly that we should all prioritise our inner lives over ‘external expectations’.
A consensus is now evident, across both sides of the aisle, that reality is less important than how we feel on the inside. We’re mainly fighting over what constitutes the right way to feel. Never mind establishment murmurs about ‘disinformation’ and ‘fact-checking’. No one cares about facts any more. Expect things to get much, much weirder.