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Fairness & Transgender Athletes II: Category Changing

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In my previous essay I set the stage for discussing the concern about people switching competition categories to gain something. It is to this matter that that I now turn. The Sickle Cell 5K in Tallahassee is well known for having a really good masters award for the overall male and female masters runners—it is better than the second and third overall awards. One year a masters runner was third overall but decided that he wanted the male masters’ award instead. This created a bit of a problem—while there was no rule about this, there were well established running norms in place: overall places take precedence over the masters category and the masters category takes precedence over age group placing.  So, a 40+ year old runner who placed first to third would get the corresponding overall award. The first 40+ runner outside the top three would get the masters award and the next runner in their age group would win that age group. As would be expected, some people were rather mad about this runner’s efforts to get the masters award—he was breaking the award category norms and traditions to get a better award. His argument, which was not unreasonable, was that he was the first masters runner and hence earned that award. This meant that the 4th place runner would get third overall. This might sound odd, but (as noted above) the running norms already allow for a person who finishes second in their age group to place first if the person who would win that age group wins an overall or masters award (most races have a strict no-double-dip rule). While his request did break the norms, he was legitimately in the masters category. One might say that he elected to identify as a masters runner for the purpose of the award category. He did end up getting the award when the original masters winner did everyone a favor by giving up his award and allowed the awards to continue. But this episode is still talked about today—switching categories to get a better award is seen as. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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